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Gender equality through sustainable development in an inclusive Commonwealth

28 August 2016
By Commonwealth youth correspondent, Angelique of Pouponneau of Seychelles 

Twenty-six years ago I was born to a world where everyone celebrated my birth and gender was immaterial. I grew up with equal opportunities to my male counterparts but I was also born to a world where the news showed me few female leaders, and where girls in Commonwealth countries were killed merely for their sex.

Twenty-six years later the struggle continues and now young people join the cause that older generations have fought for. Generations of women and men coming together is the only means for the sustainable advancement of gender equality.

The saying we must not ‘reinvent the wheel’ speaks to why intergenerational partnership is crucial. The older generation has a wealth of experience of strategies for gender equality that have worked. Whilst elders bring experience to the table, young people undoubtedly bring novelty and creativity. A generation that has had the most access to information and technology presents a fresh pair of eyes to look at the problem.

Many young people have already started novel ideas to address female empowerment. Ms Emma Dicks, a 2015 Queen’s Young Leader, launched an initiative whereby 60 teenage girls are taught to code and are guided in using their skills to solve important real life problems, thereby simultaneously obtaining capabilities that will lead to economic empowerment but also life skills to tackle every day challenges.

Young people are willing to devote their time and energy to the causes they believe in, but they often have to prove themselves to gain validation. With trust, both generations can see each other as equal partners in the fight for gender equality. Moving forward, how can one generation support and work together with the other for a sustainable journey towards an inclusive Commonwealth?

The power of storytelling and sharing experiences of strategies and policies to promote gender equality can be documented and shared using technology. Once this type of information is accessible, it is more easily adoptable and adaptable across countries and communities.

Another proposal is for an inter-generational mentorship programme. This can be achieved by linking girls in schools with women at work, which can provide role models, advice, mentorship, and career guidance. With the current emphasis on making young people job creators rather than job seekers, we cannot ignore the wealth in the Commonwealth - with 72,000 businesswomen in the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network to facilitate this link.

 Another laudable initiative is an under 25 reverse mentorship programme by Board Apprentice, where young women teach older women in decision-making positions about the use of technology and reaching the younger demographics of their company’s market.

Sustainable development in an inclusive Commonwealth makes the most of all its resources. With 60 per cent of the population of the Commonwealth aged 29 and under, and highly empowered women of all ages, it would be a missed opportunity if the Commonwealth did not bring generations together to advance gender equality. With experience on one hand and innovation on the other we can have 50:50 gender parity by 2030.

As I draw this piece to an end I thank the women who fought to ensure I have a right to vote, that opportunities were accessible to me - the women, young and old, who inspire me to do better and those who continue to fight to have equality and equity in an inclusive Commonwealth.

Read more stories on gender from Commonwealth youth correspondents