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Young Women Speak, Sing Out at the World Youth Conference
Participants celebrating at the end of the Young Women’s Forum in August, held during the 5th World Youth Conference in León, Mexico (Photo: UNIFEM/Jaya Jiwatram)
Young activists from around the world convened at the Young Women’s Forum in August, held during the 5th World Youth Conference in León, Mexico. Sponsored by UNIFEM, the forum involved a day of panels on issues such as technology, peace building and ending violence against women. The forum was capped by a rousing final concert attended by 3,000 people.
At the concert, a series of singers rallied support for the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. Performers included Debi Nova, a Costa Rican singer based in the United States; G-Town, a hip-hop group of three Palestinian youths; and Pambo, a Mexican singer. The acts had diverse musical styles, and performed in English, Arabic and Spanish. But they shared the same message: It’s time to end violence against women and girls.
“I decided to support the UNiTE campaign because violence against women is a basic violation of human rights,” said Debi Nova in an interview at the forum. “When women are going through that it is very difficult to come out and speak. Programmes like this can really help women come out of their prisons.”
She pointed out that gender violence is something she has personally experienced. “So I didn’t have a doubt that I wanted to use my voice to help eradicate this problem. We’re not alone. We all go through hard times. We’re strong women and we can get through it.”
Inés Alberdi, the UNIFEM Executive Director, and Nadine Gasman, the Director of the UNiTE campaign for Latin America and the Caribbean, delivered opening remarks at the concert, stressing the need to empower youth in the fight against gender-based violence.
Each performer was presented with the Chiuku prize of MTV Latin America, recognizing their commitment to the UNiTE campaign. When the music came to a close, singers and audience members joined in a chain on the stage and lifted up a quilt inscribed with messages on actions to end violence against women. The quilt will be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Earlier in the day, one forum panel explored how young women and men can play leadership roles in championing zero tolerance for all forms of gender-based violence. An estimated half of all sexual assaults worldwide are against adolescent girls, but their needs and rights are rarely reflected in policies to prevent violence and protect survivors.
In an interview, forum participant Stephanie Simba Nyombayire from Rwanda stressed, “We have no more time to waste especially for women from developing nations and women in general. Each of us can have a hand in changing the world and making it what we know it can be.”
“I want to invite everyone to be part of the generation of change,” said Andres Palomares. He described change as about “you and me,” where each person can do something even if it is as basic as being a good citizen.
The UN Secretary-General launched the UNiTE campaign in February 2008, calling on governments, civil society, the private sector, mass media and the UN system to work together to prevent, address and eliminate violence against women and girls. Say NO contributes towards the UNiTE campaign as a social mobilization platform.
The World Youth Conference 2010 was an initiative of the Government of Mexico in partnership with the UN system and civil society organizations. To listen to the voices of youth at the conference, visit the Say NO channel on YouTube.