Washington, DC— On Sunday, April 13 2008, at the Breakthrough: The Women, Faith, and Development Summit to End Global Poverty, an unprecedented coalition of influential leaders, representing more than 70 organizations in the women’s, faith and international development communities, agreed to work together to bring an end to poverty. This new Women, Faith, and Development Alliance (WFDA) demonstrated their dedication to finding common ground and to empower women and girls worldwide in Breakthrough Commitments totaling more than US $1 billion. Empowering young people and ensuring their health and rights are critical to such efforts, and two of the young advocates from Women Deliver carried their messages about young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights to the Summit.
Toward the conclusion of the event, Andrew Francis of the of the Jamaican Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) and Alice Hope Birungi of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Uganda joined Stellamaris Mualeh of the International Movement of Catholic Students, Kenya, as well as actress and Global Youth AIDS ambassador Ashley Judd on the Breakthrough main stage. They spoke on several issues, including the importance of youth empowerment, stopping the spread of HIV, and managing the clean water crisis in the developing world.
After descending from the stage at the Washington National Cathedral, Andrew sat down with a member of the Women Deliver staff to discuss his involvement in the Breakthrough Summit and how young people can join the effort to empower women and girls and reduce global poverty. In discussing the Breakthrough Summit and the Commitments made by participants, Andrew explained why including young people in their implementation is a critical component of achieving results and building a sustainable movement for change.
The conference organizers plan to monitor and evaluate the implementation of Commitments pledged by individuals as well as representatives of governments, multilateral institutions, nongovernmental organizations and corporations. The WFDA Leadership Council is in communications about how best to utilize financial and human resources as part of their strategic plan, and a Steering Committee, made up of key organizational representatives, plan to identify five priorities and convene meetings to garner further support. It has been proposed that the first of such meetings could be held next March in Liberia to encourage the involvement of President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
"It is important to engage young people at every level of activity related to the Breakthrough Commitments, from grassroots implementation to the decision making process of the Steering Committee," Andrew said.
Young men and women affected by poverty and with a sophisticated understanding of its affects on health and human rights must inform efforts to implement these Commitments, especially at the grassroots level. Strong representation of well-informed, passionate and trained young leaders is needed to accomplish the goals of the Women, Faith, and Development Alliance. Empowering young people to take such leadership roles will require a collaborative effort between organizations from the women's, faith and development communities.
More specifically, Andrew spoke about the importance of engaging young men in WFDA activities. "Greater involvement of young men will help them appreciate their own health and that of young women. Re-education is needed for young men about women’s roles in family and society. This in conjunction with efforts to foster the capacity of young women as leaders in their communities and globally will result in shared social space between young men and women," Andrew said. Keeping the goals of the Summit in mind, he concluded, "Young men's involvement is critical to make a breakthrough in poverty reduction now and in the future."
Andrew graciously expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the Breakthrough Summit and the Women Deliver conference. Prior to his involvement in these events, he was aware of and engaged in efforts to reduce HIV and AIDS, to implement comprehensive sexuality education, and to ensure access to safe abortion. Through his participation in these meetings, he gained a boarder understanding of the Millennium Development Goals and the intersectionalities of issues related to sexual and reproductive health. He also expanded his professional network, developing new relationships important to his work as an advocate, including with an influential epidemiology professional and young advocates from Barbados and Trinidad. Overall, the Breakthrough Summit and Women Deliver conference provided Andrew with the opportunity to learn about and advocate for the shared vision: adequate financial investment in women and girls to benefit the lives of women, their families, communities, and nations.
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Elevating Adolescent Girls on the Global Agenda remarks made by Kathy Calvin, COO of the UN Foundation, at Breakthrough: The Women, Faith, and Development Summit to End Global Poverty