The largest conference on gender equality engaged youths in an unprecedented way by giving them space to speak onstage as speaker from almost all sessions including panels.
The conference also designed a Youth Zone where visitors are invited to problem-solving alongside leading young entrepreneurs in their journey to promote gender equality worldwide.
SM Shaikat, executive director of SERAC-Bangladesh which is a youth-led law and development organisation, is such a youth who attended the conference.
“We focused on solutions. There is no dearth of problems in the world. I have proposed solutions,” he said.
He proposed introduction of ‘consent education’ in Bangladesh.
“Consent education from the early life of a boy or girl’s education will teach them anyone can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to anything. This is important because in our country we sometimes see a girl is harassed or even raped when she rejects a proposal from a boy.”
“The same boy who offered her love rapes her the next day with his gang when his ego is hurt. Consent education will teach him from the early age that it's natural that anyone can say ‘no’."
The Women Deliver says they have invited more than 1,000 youths this time.
“Young people are changing the world today, creating the reality of tomorrow. Speaking up, challenging norms, collaborating, and building networks — young advocates are driving positive change in their communities, countries, and around the world.
“They deserve to be taken seriously with youth-forward programming customised for their needs and interests,” Women Deliver said about the rationale of giving priority to youths.
Saeda Bilkis Bani, programme manager of Brac’s Community Empowerment Programme, and Md Jakaria Hossain, community access coordinator of Ipas Bangladesh, are the two other youths who were also seen in the ‘Youth Zone’ on Wednesday.
They are also concerned about the future of global health programmes particularly for the ‘global gag rule’. President Trump’s expanded Mexico City Policy – referred as global gag rule - prohibits US global health funding to foreign NGOs that work on abortion related programmes.
“Now it’s difficult for them to access international funds. It’s a challenge.”
Bani said the conference gives them the chance to interact with their peers from across the world and learn from each other.
“It’s a great networking opportunity,” she said, adding that “you will never get a chance to meet such a diverse group.”
Bangladesh is the second most gender equal country in Asia, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2018.
Improvements have been made in creating equal opportunities for legislator, senior official and manager roles, as well as professional and technical roles.
Greater parity exists in the country’s Estimated Earned Income and Wage Equality for Similar Work indices, despite seeing the healthy life expectancy gender gap widen slightly, according to the report.
But still majority of girls get married before 18; adolescent birth rates remain one of the highest in the region, robing the girls of unleashing their full physical, mental, social and economic power.
Bangladesh is still losing over 5,000 women due to preventable maternal mortality.
The Women Deliver conference themed on ‘power’ is about harnessing the power that girls and women have; the structural power that blocks them from expressing their power and how advocates for a better and equal world can come together and turn the power we have into a movement.