Habitat III: An opportunity for girls to speak out

Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, takes place every 20 years. This time, the conference is in Quito, Ecuador. To ensure girls voices are heard, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts invited a group of Girl Guides from Ecuador to have their say. Here, Veronica Ayala, 21, blogs about her experience so far…

Veronica Ayala,Habitat III is an opportunity to let girls speak out. So many organisations are taking part it’s a goldmine of shared knowledge. While leaders participate and discuss the new Urban Agenda, the participation of young people, in particular girls, is the most important part for me.

Girls are vulnerable. They face discrimination and harassment, not just in Quito, but across the world. Attending Habitat III is an opportunity to share our experiences and let leaders know about the reality of our world. It’s important we’re given a platform to speak out about these issues and provide viable solutions to the problem.

I’ve attended several events so far, where we’ve spoken about the importance of involving the younger community to make a positive impact in the world. 

I’ve been part of a discussion about the movement of people. I’ve participated as a “rapporteur” in events and I was present for WAGGGS’ U-Report presentation.

U-Report is an amazing tool that allows young people to be heard. Designed by UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre, it’s a social message tool that gives young people the chance to voice opinions and share solutions about issues affecting them with each other and key decision-makers.

It is a privilege to be part of the delegation bringing this tool to an event as important as Habitat III and showing world leaders how it can help. We are not just speaking as young people. We’re giving solutions that exist, that we know of. I’ve heard many participants offer ideas as solutions, but no one presenting an actual existing solution.

Every time young people speak, we give a solution that already exists, based on our realities. It has the potential to create a change based on information U-Report collects.

Taken from a U-Report poll, the words that captured the audience’s attention and proves why our voices must be heard at Habitat III was: “There is no point working for sustainable cities if they aren’t safe.”

These sessions have been motivating and it shows how powerful we are and why our voices deserve to be heard. We want to make a change today, not tomorrow. There are so many talented young people in the world, but we need to go out and seek their participation if we want real, tangible change. It involves encouraging them to sign up to tools such as U-Report. It involves inclusive organisations that nurture every young person with potential, just like the Girl Guides.

I feel lucky to be a Girl Guide. It’s pushed me to my limits, helped me discover my strengths, developed my leadership skills and empowered me in ways words can’t explain. It’s also given me opportunities to speak out and let world leaders hear my voice. I’m the person I am today because the Girl Guides Association of Ecuador has put me on a path that’s given me constant growth, knowledge and education.

It’s been wonderful to share my experiences at Habitat III and I am happy to have been able to have a voice and speak out about the importance of building safer cities for young women. I just hope the key decision-makers listen.

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