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Girls, Adolescents and Youth: Heard. Involved. Engaged.

By: Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, Espolea and Sumaya Saluja, Global Education First Initiative

The 3rd PMNCH Partners' Forum is over, yet the commitments that have been made prevail. Young people present at the forum were critical, active, and brought attention to key issues affecting adolescents and youth around the world. During the youth pre-meeting, we worked collectively to shape an outcome document, which clearly outlines specific priorities for adolescents and young people in the definition of the post-2015 agenda. During the two days that followed, we advocated to leverage political commitment and accountability.

Investing in adolescents and youth as agents of change pays. Investing in these populations ensures we will be able to reach other young people and provide a better future for the generations to come. Turning the tide on poverty, violence, discrimination and inequality requires young people to be heard, involved and engaged.

There has been a slow and gradual shift where youth participation has started to move beyond being minimal and tokenistic - doors are opening though rooms need to be filled. Within PMNCH, young people have pushed to be equal partners and have challenged representation, urging that those who are most affected are invited to the table as decision-makers, not as observers.

Participation does not only include the opening up of spaces for dialogue and ownership. It requires a strategy embedded within a rights-based framework that understands and equips adolescents and young people with the ability to analyze and articulate their asks and build our leadership. It requires young people to reach out to other young people but also be empowered to reach out to governments.

A call for increased investments in girls, adolescents and young people requires time, tireless effort, and consistent resources that reach those of us who are the hardest to reach, are consistently not heard, and often not counted. It requires commitments from a wide array of partners who work collectively -- but what does that look like?

  • Partnerships with Governments, which involves enabling and listening to young people and creating priorities that are reflective of the needs and challenges of girls, adolescents and young people. This also means supporting and standing up for them at the regional and global level.
  • For the Private sector to commit to social responsibility and invest in innovative solutions that can improve the lives of women, girls and young people.
  • For Multi-lateral Agencies to form bridges, create access for young people at a national level, and support work at a community level and amplify young peoples' voices at national, regional and global level.
  • For civil society to be mentors and partners, so that we can build on the past success and failures and provide collective solutions while moving forward.
  • For our Communities: To allow girls, adolscents and young people have agency over their rights and choices, to be champions in supporting the solutions of the challenges faced by young people.

Where we need to invest?

Identifying the areas we need to invest in is fundamental to accelerate progress. Investing strategically in adolescents and youth requires allocating financial and human resources to build young people's capacities to advocate across all levels and amongst different stakeholders while they continue to strengthen their community-based efforts. Moreover, expertise is needed to develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and strategies that incorporate indicators for assessing both the results and impact their actions, and to develop SMART objectives.

Young people's realities are diverse and complex; so are the problems affecting them. Yet, the most marginalized youth are being left behind. Investing to bridge inequality gaps within and outside the youth populations is an imperative.

While accomplishments have been made to ensure girls' and women's health and rights, accountability remains a major challenge. Addressing this issue is critical, as well as ensuring young people are part of these processes as partners who are heard, involved, and engaged.

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