International Youth Day #IYD14 - Why we need to talk about #SexualViolence
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It's time for youth to talk about Sexual Violence.
This past June, members of governments and civil society organisations joined forces at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. A delegation of youth was invited to attend and participate in summit discussions, where they were encouraged to rally the #YouthVoice on social media.
The youth voice is 1.8 billion strong, so the task of representing youth at the Global Summit and rallying them by means of social media was daunting, to the say the least. After countless meetings, expert sessions, tireless advocacy, and exhaustive debate, the youth voice that was intended to be a loud, booming call to action, still felt like a whisper.
Youth recommendations were included in the summit proceedings, but in the end they were limited to broader statements by a confining word count. The Global Summit was salient in providing youth with their first real and meaningful engagement on discussions of sexual violence in conflict with government and humanitarian actors alike. And despite the limitations for global youth engagement at the London summit, the 25 summit youth delegates were encouraged to continue on their journey to end the use of rape in war.
Their passion has unfolded into a new and exciting movement. Youth to End Sexual Violence (Y2ESV): a network of young people determined to be included alongside government actors and civil society organisations, and dedicated to advocating for the youth voice in every discussion involving sexual and gender based violence.
But youth are perceived most often as helpless victims. So why should young people be included in the conversation? Young people have a distinct operational advantage: they can easily contact and build relationships with the group of people regarded as most vulnerable and at risk for exploitation and various forms of sexual violence - other young people.
This is the movement. Young people advocating for the rights other young people. Bringing a voice to youth in conflict-affected areas who are exposed to high-thresholds of sexualized violence, and advocating for youth inclusion in humanitarian response programmes. Raising awareness about youth who may be victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. It's time for young people to stand in solidarity with one another and demand inclusion with government and civil society initiatives.
Today is International Youth Day 2014. Help us raise awareness about sexual violence in conflict, and to spread the message that youth are not just helpless victims. We can, and will be agents of change.
This September Youth to End Sexual Violence is launching a Youth Action Toolkit + Recommendations to End Sexual Violence. Be apart of the movement. Follow us @Youth2ESV or on Facebook at facebook.com/Youth2ESV