Hosted by The Girl Generation, the #YouthEndFGM Summit brought together young people from across the continent and the diaspora – placing them at the centre of the movement and providing an essential platform to allow their voices to be heard in the mission to end FGM in one generation.
Over the course of the two days, young people were given the opportunity to learn and discuss ways in which they can call on their governments, policy makers, and religious leaders to listen to them about the need to end FGM. A clear message from young people is that they are serious about their role in ending FGM – they often feel side-lined but want their role to be taken seriously. They want to learn from one another, but most of all want the opportunity to be heard.
“I believe if all the young people of Africa say no to FGM, we can end FGM in a generation.” Were the opening remarks from our Global Director of The Girl Generation, Faith Mwangi Powell.
The Youth Summit was officially opened by Representative Cabinet Secretary of Kenya the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, who showed a commitment from the Government of Kenya to support the youth.
During the summit, the energy was high and the discussions passionate. Many of the youth facilitators, panelists and speakers commented on how this was a different kind of summit as they were not invited as the side event, but as the core purpose and focus.
Natalie, a youth activist from Marsabit in Kenya said; “Normally conferences and workshops feel competitive, as if everyone needs to prove that their way of ending FGM is the best way. But this has been different – this has truly been about learning and sharing – and being united as the global youth network to end FGM. This is new and refreshing – and will have lasting effects.”
In their work to date, the young activists have found that the social change communication training and Do No harm Approach, both developed by The Girl Generation, has made a big difference in the way communities and elders respond to them. It has helped them focus on working with their elders and communities, rather than against them. During the summit, sessions were held on advocacy and youth leadership which helped develop their campaign message.
A surprise visit from UNFPA Kenya Country Director, committed that UNFPA would support youth to end FGM in whatever way they could; “If you don’t get an answer the first time, try again and again. I will write to each Country Director personally and encourage them to support and work with you, young people working to end FGM.”
The summit was an opportunity to celebrate the change that is already taking place, share together what has worked and what hasn’t, and to show the world that African young people are seriously committed to ending FGM. There was a strong sense that they have much to learn from one another and each country is focusing on different issues in their response.
A significant outcome of the summit was the unveiling of The Girl Generation Youth Activists five year strategic plan for Nigeria and Kenya, to equip youth with leadership capacity to work towards the end of FGM in their countries. Another outcome from the two days included the youth from Sierra Leone pledging to set up their own youth platform when returning to their country. One of the most important elements of the summit, was that youth were building relationships and sharing solidarity with fellow activists from across the continent – for the first time building the opportunity for collaboration and taking on an identity as a global, Africa-led youth movement.
The Summit was praised by various locally led youth movements and activists and has been encouraged to now take place annually. This was an innovative, youth-led summit which centred on action and mutual learning. Participants returned to their countries inspired and ready to mobilise their peers in the movement to EndFGM.