Because I am a boy, I have the greatest role to play in the struggle to achieve gender balance in my society.
The 11th of October was International Day of the Girl. I was elected by my peers of The National Youth Advisory Panel from Plan International Uganda to represent the Ugandan delegation at the international celebration. Being the only male youth representative at the event, I felt out of place for a while, however later discovered I had a great role to play in the event in my capacity as a boy.
This opportunity to speak to the world about girls issues was the best experience for me as a youth activist. With a number of spaces to participate, including at the UN Economic and Security Council, a panelist discussant at UN Women, a co-moderator at the launch of The Plan International 2016 Global State of the World’s Girls report, a participant at donor events, and member of a panel co-creating a social media game application at Nickelodeon.
All this came up because I am a boy and I had to speak out loud about the challenges girls in my community face. Amongst the many challenges, menstrual hygiene was a striking talking point. It is a critical reason for school drop-outs and teenage pregnancies in addition to the violation of a girl’s right to participation and protection.
THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS
The speaking opportunities I had were instrumental in building my capacity during the event. I opened up, for the first time, to global activism for girls’ rights, and it was a pleasure to be the only boy talking out loud about girls’ rights to participation and protection at a number of events. I anticipated the opportunity to challenge the common misconception that gender issues are only a girl’s issue and that men have no or little roles to play. I took my stand as a boy to challenge this perspective and create a new dimension of advocacy with boys at the forefront to bridge the gender gap and create equal spaces for participation and ensure protection of girls’ rights.
This was principally a learning experience that boys and girls can work together to achieve gender balance in society. Like the common saying goes: “United we stand and divided we fall.”
It was also interesting to discover that the gender imbalanced society wants to hear male gender champions advocate for girls’ rights, especially with a better understanding of the role of men in the advocacy for girls’ rights and the level of influence they possess as power holders in the community.
Youth structures like the youth advisory panels play a crucial role as agents of change in societies.
Social media is indeed an inspiring tool for advocacy, as proven by our experience at Nickelodeon, where we participated in co-developing a game application and thereafter had a live face book talk show at “News Deeply”, a show made visible to many boys and girls around the world.
As a boy, I strongly believe that by promoting male participation in gender championship, we shall take a large step towards achieving gender equality by 2030.