In February 2017, Plan International USA Youth Advisory Board member, Nadyah, traveled to Stanford University to bring youth voice and perspectives to an upcoming Lancet Series on Gender Equality.
The series, which will be released in early 2018, focuses on the impact of efforts to transform gender norms and address gender inequalities for improved health outcomes and the well-being of women, girls, men, and boys around the world.
Nadyah was one of two youth delegates invited to attend the series launch meeting with renowned researchers, academics, technical experts, and donors.
“Attending the series launch as a young person was a huge honor and responsibility,” said Nadyah. “I was happy to see that Stanford and the Lancet were including youth voices from the beginning. I kept reminding myself how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to sit in a room filled with some of the brightest minds and leaders in their fields. It was at first intimidating, but I realized that my perspective as a young person was different and unique from what others in the room could bring to the table.”
While the development sector has made enormous strides in the advancement of gender equality over the past three decades, the reality remains that changing entrenched gendered social norms is difficult, and most programs and policies are not tackling the root causes of gender equality. Gender inequality is one of the key factors holding policy makers, business leaders, and practitioners back from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and creating the just, equitable, and prosperous world in which we all want to live.
So how is a series of articles in the Lancet going to change that?
We all know that policy and lived reality can at times be at opposite ends of the spectrum. In many communities where Plan works, the legal age of marriage might be 18, yet it is common practice for girls as young as 13 to be married off, with no say in the matter, to men three times their age. An early or forced marriage has serious implications for a girl’s health and development and is rooted in gender inequality. The Lancet offers a powerful platform to bring gender equality, health, and well-being to the attention of global health and development policy, program, and research leaders around the world through a series of articles that captures not only data, evidence, trends, and policy recommendations, but also the voices of young people who battle gender inequality on a daily basis in their effort to live healthy and productive lives. This series will not serve just as a tool to influence donors and the C-Suite at the United Nations. It will give credibility to the adolescent girl who demands access to contraceptives, and the mother who files for divorce from an abusive husband. It will also help practitioners enhance advocacy efforts and leverage more funding for gender transformative programming.
Nadyah also has plans to utilize this series in her work.
“The Lancet Series has opened doors and provided a unique opportunity for the ways in which youth can become involved in discussions surrounding gender, and other development issues,” she said. “The fact that such a high level and internationally recognized journal understands the importance of bringing youth voices to the table is significant. This provides motivation for me and other youth advocates to continue to disrupt the status quo within government, international organizations, and policy institutions—to ensure that our voices are heard.
“The findings of the series may also change the way that work is implemented on the ground, with new information on critical periods within the life cycle—it is now evident more than ever that engaging youth at critical points in their lives is key to successful development work. This data provides leverage to youth groups like Plan’s Youth Advisory Board and gives us more credibility when it comes to moving people to actively support a youth agenda.”