August 12, 2019 marks the 20th annual International Youth Day – a day to celebrate the role young people play as champions of change and a day to spread awareness about the challenges they still face today.
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 to 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever, yet younger generations are often excluded from important discussions that will impact their future.
Youth for Gender Equality, an initiative co-led by Plan International Canada and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, is changing this through a unique “youth for youth” approach. More than 300 diverse youth from throughout Canada were engaged to convene and discuss how to spearhead progress toward achieving SDG 5 for Gender Equality. This resulted in the first-ever, Youth-Led Roadmap for Gender Equality in Canada, which provides tangible actions individuals can take within their personal lives, the classroom or the workplace to change discriminatory social norms that fuel gender inequality.
To celebrate International Youth Day we’d like to showcase the stories of two young leaders who helped draft the Youth-Led Roadmap for Gender Equality.
Keridwen, 17 – Prince Edward Island
As a trans person, day to day interactions with strangers and acquaintances can be vastly different depending on how my gender is perceived by others. When I’m perceived as a boy, people pay attention to me instead of talking over me, but express distaste if I’m “too emotional.” When I’m perceived as a girl, people hold the door open for me more often and offer to help me carry things, but they assume I’m unintelligent or tell me that I talk too much. It’s worse when people “decide” my gender based on arbitrary traits. Something as simple as moving my hands when I talk can determine what pronouns someone will decide to use for me.
Gender inequality is not only prevalent, but rampant in our society to a point where we often don’t see it even when we’re looking for it. I think there are many youth, like myself, who are seeing injustice and starving for change, and the Youth for Gender Equality initiative spread youth voices and stories to push for that change. Youth for Gender Equality gives me hope that change is possible and that older generations are willing to listen. It’s a doorway for intergenerational collaboration to fight for progress.
Youth matter because we have the power to communicate our feelings and thoughts and influence others in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. We are using it to our advantage, to advocate for progress, to fight for justice, and to change the world.
Esha, 18 – Ontario
I’ve noticed how stereotypes, assumptions and prejudice outlooks often revolve around culture. Being of South Asian background, I’ve experienced that the elders in my family don’t take me as seriously as they would if I were a male. This is evident in various daily discussions involving politics, social media, the religion I practice or the relationships I choose to pursue.
In Grade 12, I led a Youth for Gender Equality dialogue focused on topics like, understanding why the gender wage gap exists, the struggles between families varying form lone parent to extended families, as well as daily experiences that people in my class faced. The next generation of teachers, parents, politicians, lawyers and more need to be included in the conversation. This is because gender equality is a social issue that intersects religion, race and culture. It’s important to be aware of the difficulties people face in order to create a safe space for all and to be able to dismantle the root causes of this issue.
Youth matter because our voices are the next powerful tool to be used across the world, as our voice will unite and advocate for change.
We all have a role to play in helping advance gender equality. But sometimes we don’t know where to start. Thankfully, youth in Canada have made that task easier and have created a Roadmap that outlines 20 immediate, actionable commitments that you can make today to help advance gender equality.