Because I am a boy, I have the greatest role to play in the struggle to achieve gender balance in my society.
October 11 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, I 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 U.N. Economic and Security Council, a panelist discussion at U.N. Women, co-moderating at the launch of the Plan International 2016 Global State of the World’s Girls report, a participant at donor events and a 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 be protected.
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 about girls’ rights, and it was a pleasure to be the only boy talking out loud about a girl’s right to participation and protection at a number of events. I anticipated the opportunity to challenge the common misconception that gender issues are only girls’ issues and that men have no role or small 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, ensuring 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 society wants to hear male gender champions advocate for girls’ rights, especially considering the role that men play in the advocacy for girls’ rights and the level of influence they possess as power-holders in the community.
Youth structures like 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 Facebook 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 championing girls’ rights, we shall take a large step towards achieving gender equality by 2030.