Women Deliver, a global advocacy organisation, is mobilising 117 young Africans to advocate for gender equality on the continent through the 2020 class of its Young Leaders Program.
In a statement shared with HumAngle on Thursday, it noted that the initiative, which started in 2010, is especially vital at this period because of how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and placed heavier burdens on girls and women.
The Young Leaders from Africa will combine efforts with 183 others from across the globe who are committed to improving political, economic, and opportunities for women.
“The collective message of the Women Deliver Young Leaders from Africa is that, in the face of COVID-19 and other crises impacting women differently and often more severely than men, it is urgent and essential to mainstream gender in society’s response, and this, in turn, requires dedicated and informed leadership — particularly among groups that have been traditionally excluded,” Women Deliver said.
Vivian Onano, a Women Deliver Board Member and alumnus of the programme, observed that the uneven damage caused by the pandemic in Africa “demonstrates more dramatically than ever the need for a new approach to the continent’s growth and development — one that brings women and youth from the margins to the centre of planning and action”.
“The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is an excellent example of how we must cultivate dedicated leaders who are capable of bringing about this shift,” Onano added.
Women Deliver President, Katja Iversen, said the participation of young people is important in achieving lasting change.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that if we truly want to deliver health, wellbeing, and dignity for all, girls, women, and young people must be front and centre in emergency responses, in social and economic recovery efforts, and in how we strengthen our health systems for the long term,” she said.
“As we witness young people responding to both new crises and old injustices, it’s clear their leadership is fundamental to meaningful change. The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is here to partner with young people, elevate their leadership, amplify their voices, and share knowledge and resources during this unprecedented time and beyond.”
This year, the programme received over 5,600 applications from 167 countries, nearly double the amount received in the previous round and the most it has ever recorded.
“Women Deliver selected all the Young Leaders for their potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of girls and women,” the organisation said.
“As a group, they have already driven tangible progress on a wide range of issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQIA+ rights, peace and security, water and sanitation, gender-based violence, education, climate and environment, political participation, and youth engagement.
“As in past years, the 2020 class will receive training and resources that extend their influence and enhance their capacity to shape programs and policies on the health and rights of girls, women, and young people.
“Since 2010, Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program has trained and supported 700 advocates, who are tackling the challenges that girls, women, and young people face in their communities and countries.”
The programme has engaged up to 1,000 young advocates from around the world since it started 10 years ago.