“We’ve had enough.” young activists call for education funding and real partnerships

9 JUNE 2021

We demand that young people are meaningfully engaged with decision-makers and intergenerational dialogues on education in order to shift power, blogs Nnenna Onwuka of Transform Education.

Almost 6000 youth activists assembled this week to demand a power shift on decisions around girls' education. Artwork by @teenatona and Transform Education.
Almost 6000 youth activists assembled this week to demand a power shift on decisions around girls’ education. Artwork by @teenatona and Transform Education.

‘You’re too young for that…’ Do you remember how it felt to be dismissed in such a way? Do you remember the frustration when told that you would ‘understand it when you’re older?’

Well, this is how we feel. Young activists are overlooked as valuable partners time and time again. We are not taken seriously, ignored, used as puppets to reproduce messages that weren’t created by us.  And don’t even get me started on the lack of funding for young activists. 

Young activists demand change

This Monday, at the first ever youth-led Power Shift, we came together to demand change.

Young activists came together are the virtual Power Shift event to demand funding for girls' education.
Young activists came together are the virtual Power Shift event to demand funding for girls’ education.

It is clear that youth are experts on gender-transformative education.

6000 of us came together to demand that G7 leaders reverse aid cuts and fund girls’ education. 6000 of us came together to demand that G7 leaders prioritise safe and inclusive schools with gender and climate front and centre. 

6000 of us came together to demand that governments support, fund and partner with youth activists in our work. We came together because we have had enough. 

Transform Education is a coalition of feminist activists and youth-led networks hosted by UNGEI. We work to transform education for gender equality through advocacy, capacity growing and fostering solidarity. Our methods of organising and working are grounded in inclusive feminist principles and encourage sustainable impact. 

For us at Transform Education it is clear that youth are experts on gender-transformative education. We know what we need, we know what works and what doesn’t and our advocacy messages stem from our lived experiences. 

Young activists came together at the virtual Power Shift event to demand funding for girls’ education.

Working together to shift the power

We applaud Plan International for recognising this and partnering with us on a joint advocacy campaign. Together we are working to advocate for girls’ education, leadership and climate justice throughout 3 key advocacy moments, the G7 summit this week, the GPE replenishment in July and COP26 in November. 

We are calling on world leaders to step up and invest in education that challenges gender norms and empowers girls to become leaders, innovators and change makers.

We know that girls’ education is key to advancing gender and climate justice. Over the last year, lockdowns and school closures have hit girls particularly hard, leaving over 20 million at risk of never returning to school. The climate emergency makes this all the more urgent. 

That is why we are calling on world leaders to step up and invest in education that challenges gender norms and empowers girls to become leaders, innovators and change makers, with the skills needed to tackle the climate emergency and future crises. 

Our partnership with Plan International is unique because it is based on co-creation from start to finish. We shaped this advocacy initiative collectively and the creation of our key demands was a joint effort. It is refreshing to be in a meaningful partnership rather than tokenistic inclusion of youth. To be given a platform and the freedom to create, rather than to be put on a stage a premade set of speaking notes. To be in a space where all of our ideas are of equal value. A space that shifts power. 

Throughout 2021 and beyond, we demand that young people are meaningfully engaged with decision-makers and intergenerational dialogues to ensure that none of our words or demands get lost when someone else voices them on our behalf.

Girls must take the lead in advocacy efforts 

In the run up to GPE replenishment, girls should be leading advocacy efforts to fund the $5bn target and helping shape government commitments to transform education systems. At COP26, we want to see girls’ included in all national delegations and participating as young negotiators in key discussions. 

While Plan International partnering with us is exceptional today, this has to become the norm. We do not see how any organisation can claim to meaningfully work to empower youth without partnering and co-creating with us. We do not see how any government can discuss our education without listening to our demands. We don’t see how any decisions can be made about us without us.

As much as we need you, you need us to make sure your efforts are truly valuable.

We have the knowledge, we have the lived experience and as we showed at the Power Shift on Monday, we have the numbers. It is time to shift the power.

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