Breaking the cycle of poverty: Youth recommendations for CSW68

11 March 2024

The She Leads UN Youth Advocacy Cohort calls for action on 4 key themes, including access to essential services, sustainable infrastructure, political engagement and the environment, to speed up progress toward gender equality.

Cover graphic for CSW68, 11-22 March 2024
© Plan International

In alignment with the priority theme for the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we, the members of the She Leads UN Youth Advocacy Cohort, have identified 4 themes that address the fundamental challenges faced by girls and young women. Poverty, deeply entrenched and systemic, perpetuates a cycle where women and girls bear a disproportionate burden, facing heightened barriers to essential services, political participation, and environmental adaptation. By focusing on themes like access to services, sustainable infrastructure, political participation, and environmental issues, we can break this cycle and speed up progress toward gender equality. Addressing the feminisation of poverty and recognising unique challenges faced by girls and young women will create a more equitable and sustainable future.

We strongly encourage Member States to enact these recommendations to safeguard the rights of girls and young women, ensuring systemic changes that not only alleviate poverty but also empower girls and women to thrive and lead.

Access to essential services for girls and young women


  • We urge Member States to invest in and prioritise quality education for girls, ensuring equal, inclusive, and safe access to educational opportunities from primary to tertiary levels. Member States must eradicate gender-based violence and discrimination within educational institutions and create a safe and inclusive learning environment for girls.  
  • We strongly urge Member States to make financial commitments for the construction and improvement of schools in rural areas and informal settlements. It is essential to implement regular monitoring for ensuring proper learning equipment and conditions, alongside the development of appropriate infrastructure to facilitate easy access to schools. 
  • We urge Member States to improve their support for individuals with disabilities. This entails ensuring that those with disabilities are not hindered from continuing their education, promoting accessibility, and investing in training initiatives for individuals working with people with disabilities. Furthermore, we advocate for measures to guarantee that education institutions and public spaces are fully accessible for people with varying needs.


  • We strongly urge Member States to guarantee that girls and young women have access to secure youth health centres designed to address their distinct physical and mental health needs. These centres should offer universal access to high-quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and healthcare services, while ensuring freedom from discrimination, coercion, and violence. 
  • We urge all Member States to establish and promote accessible mental health services, recognising and addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by girls. Member States must integrate mental health education into school curricula to promote awareness and destigmatisation.

Safe work

  • We strongly urge all Member States to prioritise improving working conditions, emphasising safer physical environments, and guaranteeing a sufficient minimum wage. In particular, an urgent review of the infrastructure and policies within the fast fashion industry is essential to ensure the protection and well-being of workers, particularly women, fostering a work environment that prioritises safety, fair remuneration, and dignity.  
  • We urge all Member States to guarantee that young women have access to safe employment or enrollment in affordable vocational and technical training programmes. To achieve this goal, Member States should establish partnerships and collaborations with industries and companies, and work on alleviating the disproportionate burden of care and domestic work on young women.

Social support

  • We urge Member States to implement and strengthen social protection systems that are inclusive, addressing the specific needs and vulnerabilities faced by girls, particularly those in marginalised communities. Member States must ensure accessibility and ease of enrollment in social safety net programmes for all, irrespective of gender, socio-economic status, or geographical location. 
  • We strongly urge Member States to enhance the social protection of women and girls by intensifying efforts to close existing gaps through initiatives like guaranteed income programmes. Member States should particularly target conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • We urge Member States to implement gender-responsive budgeting tools and principles, increase investment in social infrastructure (health, education, social protection, etc.) to empower women and girls. This includes a strong effort to minimise and redistribute women’s unpaid care and domestic work. 

Violence against Women and Girls

  • We urge Member States to commit to the development and implementation of comprehensive legislation that criminalises all forms of violence against women and girls and ensure that the laws are accessible to all as well as effectively enforced so perpetrators are held accountable.

Sustainable infrastructure 

Physical Infrastructure

  • We urge Member States to prioritise the construction of public spaces, specifically those tailored for youth. This includes reviving public spaces that have been closed due to wars and other crises. Ensuring access to these safe public spaces is important for nurturing a sense of community, particularly for girls and young women. 
  • We strongly recommend that all Member States deploy information technology and sensor systems to oversee the quality of water and sanitation services. Additionally, we encourage the expansion of alternative water technologies, particularly in impoverished and marginalised areas. 
  • We urge all Member States to design and implement infrastructure that prioritises the safety and mobility of girls and women, including well-lit public spaces, secure public transportation, and safe and well-maintained sanitation facilities. Member States must foster community engagement in urban planning, ensuring the voices of girls are heard and considered in the development of public spaces.

Digital Infrastructure

  • We urge Member States to bridge the digital gender gap by providing affordable technology and access to the Internet, ensuring that girls and young women have the skills and resources to participate in the digital economy. The availability and affordability of Internet and digital infrastructure is particularly important in rural and informal settlements. 
  • We urge Member States to combat online harassment and promote a safe online environment for girls through legislation and awareness campaigns. 
  • We urge Member States to apply universal design principles in infrastructure development to ensure that both physical and digital environments are accessible to individuals of all abilities, creating inclusive spaces for girls and young women with diverse needs. 

Political engagement of marginalised groups

  • We strongly recommend that Member States implement comprehensive strategies to enhance women’s political participation, ensuring their active involvement in national and international decision-making processes. This includes introducing quotas alongside training programmes to guarantee fair representation and investing in empowering women for leadership roles. 
  • We urge Member States to build the capacity of institutions to effectively mainstream gender perspectives in policies, programmes, and decision-making processes. It is crucial to recognise and address the intersectionality of challenges faced by marginalised groups, considering factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status in policy formulation and implementation. 
  • We urge Member States to establish inclusive and permanent spaces for girls and young women across all decision-making levels. It is important to avoid tokenism and ensure these spaces are substantial, addressing issues beyond those typically labeled as youth related. 
  • We urge Member States to establish programmes that provide accessible political education for girls and young women, enabling them to understand political processes, civic responsibilities, and the impact of policies on their lives. Member States should identify and eliminate barriers that hinder political engagement including discriminatory practices, lack of representation, and socio-economic constraints.  
  • We strongly recommend that Member States integrate gender-responsive budgeting across all sectors, ensuring financial allocations specifically address the needs of girls and women. We urge the promotion of transparency and accountability in budgeting processes, with a specific focus on tracking and reporting gender-related expenditures. 

Environmental and climate change advocacy

  • We urge Member States to take urgent action to address food security and climate justice with a focus on women and girls. Member States must establish sustainable and inclusive infrastructure, ensuring access to food and nutrition, particularly in situations of livelihood loss due to conflict, climate disasters, and humanitarian crises, and in particular acknowledge and address the vulnerability of women who dominate rural and agriculture production subject to adverse climate change effects. 
  • We urge Member States to ensure the active and meaningful participation of young girls and women in decision-making processes related to climate policies and environmental initiatives. Establish platforms for their voices to be heard, fostering representation in local, national, and international discussions on climate change and environmental protection. 
  • We strongly recommend Member States to introduce inclusive climate education in schools, ensuring young girls acquire knowledge on climate change and sustainable practices. Additionally, establish training and capacity-building programmes empowering girls and women with skills for environmental sustainability, resilience, and adaptation, fostering their leadership as change-makers in addressing climate-related challenges. 
  • We urge Member States to formulate and implement gender-responsive climate policies that specifically address the unique vulnerabilities and needs of girls and young women living in poverty. Integrate a rights-based approach into environmental policies, ensuring that the rights of girls and young women are central to climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. 
  • Lastly, we urge Member States to ensure equitable access to resources and financial support, especially with the impending and ongoing climate crises, recognising that girls and young women not only disproportionately experience poverty but also bear a disproportionate impact due to climate change.

The She Leads UN Youth Advocacy Cohort comprises of 18 girls and young women ages 15-23 from 9 countries: Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, and Jordan. She Leads is a joint programme from Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children – ECPAT the Netherlands (DCI-ECPAT), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Terre des Hommes the Netherlands (TdH-NL). Equal Measures 2030 is a technical partner.