Between March 10 and March 22, the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women convened in New York. Over the span of two weeks, the event hosted hundreds of panels and conferences, featuring esteemed speakers from across the globe and drawing a participation of at least 10,000 attendees.

On March 12, as part of the NGO CSW68 Forum, the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, in partnership with the Journalists and Writers Foundation, organized a dynamic panel discussion delving into the theme: Transforming Tomorrow: Amplifying Youth Voices to Foster Gender Equality. Held at the Church Center for the UN in New York, the event brought together a diverse array of voices dedicated to dismantling barriers to gender equality.

The panel aimed to shed light on the intricate factors involved in achieving gender equality, acknowledging its multifaceted nature and underscoring the inherent complexity embedded within societal structures, historical biases, and cultural norms. Furthermore, it sought to spotlight young people as paramount drivers and allies in the pursuit of gender equality, while also sharing good practices in youth advocacy. 

The panelists stressed the imperative need for a comprehensive and sustained effort to address the issue of gender equality, contemplating strategies that could yield long-term results, with particular emphasis on the active involvement of youth as agents of change and influential advocates for equality.

Ali Mustafa, Civil Society Representative to the United Nations Department of Global Communications and a long-time advocate for youth empowerment and human rights, emphasized the importance of meaningful participation of youth leaders in decision-making mechanisms. Leveraging over 15 years of experience, Mr. Mustafa highlighted the transformative power of youth-driven initiatives and their indispensable contribution to advancing policy reforms aimed at achieving gender equality.

Hayrunnisa Kalac, Project Manager at the Alliance for Shared Values, echoed Mustafa’s sentiments, emphasizing the crucial role of young leaders in advancing gender equality. Through highlighting exemplary practices and successful projects, Ms. Kalac underscored the imperative to empower emerging young leaders to enact positive change within their communities.

Fatima Altunbas-Kaya, Project Manager at the Federation for Global and Democratic Organizations (FMDO), shed light on the resilience of newcomer girls and young women as they navigate gender-based challenges in host countries. In her presentation, Ms. Altunbas-Kaya shared compelling narratives that exemplified the potency of empowerment amidst multifaceted obstacles, drawing from a spectrum of programs and projects she has spearheaded in Belgium in recent years.

Ludmila Malai, EU Project Manager at the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, concluded the panel discussion with a reflective analysis of youth advocacy for gender equality as a quasi-organic phenomenon. Leveraging her expertise in European Projects, particularly her role in managing the Citizen Z project, Ms. Malai underscored the inherent evolution of youth movements in catalyzing societal change towards gender equality. Drawing from preliminary findings gathered through extensive consultations with young individuals from diverse EU countries, she presented emerging trends, particularly regarding the topics that young people deem of critical importance. Based on the compiled data, it became evident that youth considers gender equality, human rights, and justice as absolute priorities demanding immediate attention.

All in all, the event, which attracted over 80 participants, exemplified a concerted effort to amplify youth voices and champion gender equality on a global scale. Centered on inclusivity, economic empowerment, mental health, and cultural perceptions, the panel offered a nuanced exploration of the challenges and opportunities in the pursuit of gender equality. It underscored the imperative for holistic solutions with a focus on empowering young people to take center stage in driving progress. In their closing remarks, the esteemed speakers reiterated the need for sustained collaboration and collective action in dismantling barriers to gender equality and underscored the significant potential of youth voices in advancing this critical cause. 

The event concluded on an optimistic note, with attendees reaffirming their commitment to cultivating a more inclusive and equitable world for future generations. Empowering young voices to champion the principles of justice, equality, and human rights continues to be a primary objective in achieving this collective aspiration. 

The panel discussion served as a source of inspiration, reigniting a sense of urgency and determination in the persistent pursuit of gender equality. As the world looks towards the future, the voices of youth advocates must resonate louder than ever, heralding a transformative tomorrow anchored in the values of equality and justice.