The European Week of Action for Girls is an annual event organized by a coalition of NGOs in Brussels to mark the International Day of the Girl on 11 October. EWAG is all about giving space to young advocates, and for the 8th year in a row our ONE Youth Ambassadors had the opportunity to meet (virtually, this time!) with almost 30 activists from across Europe and Africa on how to promote and fight together for girls’ rights and gender equality.
This year focused on the relation between Europe and Africa. After discussing together on how the EU-Africa partnership can reflect their aspirations and unlock their potential, EWAG young advocates met with policymakers and shared their recommendations on key themes, such us sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), education, and economic empowerment and political participation.
Here are some insights from the week and lessons learned from Brussels ONE activists, Anouk, Canelle, Hanna, Munera, & Silke.
Girls Connect with Netflix
Munera, 24, Belgium
“Let’s make sure we shape our world in order to give young girls and women voices and portray an equal world for them.”
Munera was co-chairing the first event of the week: Girls connect with Netflix. She and her fellow EWAG advocates talked with Netflix Content Executive Dorothy Ghettuba and MEP Karen Melchior about gender stereotypes in media and decision-making. They used as a starting point of their discussion the amazing South African Netflix series “Blood and water.” You can watch or rewatch the live event.
“This week was a very rewarding experience for me. One of the main reasons was that I felt I could express my voice strongly as a young woman and stand up for other girls worldwide. I also appreciated that we were connected with MEPs, policymakers, content makers, and other youth advocates. EWAG also taught me how to collaborate, because ONE worked with other advocacy groups for this project, which gave me the incredible and insightful experience of exchanging thoughts with other young, strong women who stand up for girls’ rights.”
Girls Connect with UNICEF
Silke, 25, Belgium
“When you invest in girls education you are not only changing girls’ lives but creating a better world and better future for everyone.”
Silke participated in Girls Connect with UNICEF, a live discussion hosted jointly by UNICEF, with Mara Marinaki, principal advisor on gender at the European External Action Service, Chiara Adamo, human rights, equality and democracy head of unit at European Commission, and Amanda Chukwudozie, youth engagement lead at the African Union Commission. Together with youth advocates they discussed girls rights as part of the renewed EU-Africa partnership. You can watch the event on UNICEF’s Facebook page.
“Naturally, I am rather shy. A year ago I never would have thought that I would be able to talk to policymakers on a Facebook livestream. However, during the European Week of Action for Girls I did this exact thing with the wonderful people from EWAG and U-report. And thanks to the support of the ONE campaign staff and the inspiring stories of my fellow advocates, I enjoyed it immensely.
Beforehand, we brainstormed about what we thought should be focal points of the new EU-Africa partnership. I worked with the group on education and economic empowerment of girls. Afterwards, during the live show, I got to share my thoughts with several policymakers. It was a wonderful experience from which I learned a lot!
Girls Connect with Parliamentarians
Canelle, 25, France
“Under the EU-Africa partnership girls need to be invited to participate in decision-making processes that directly affect them.”
Canelle took part in Girls Connect with Parliamentarians, a panel discussion in which she gave her policy recommendations on girls political participation as part of the renewed EU-Africa partnership to MEP Chrysoula Zacharopoulou and members of the Kenyan Parliament Hon. Esther Passaris and Hon. Millie Odhiambo. If you have missed it, you can watch it here.
“As a youth advocate for EWAG, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a broad range of activities promoting children’s rights of European policy fields. The EU-AU partnership, as a main advocacy target offered me valuable insights with which to further explore the issues and challenges affecting girls on both continents.
In parallel to that, I had the chance to have interesting exchanges and discussions with other youth advocates with whom we found solutions and recommendations that I had the opportunity to present to the policymakers in charge of the new partnership. Participating in the EWAG initiative has been an interesting personal experience and I will continue to fight for the rights of girls because there are still many barriers that prevent them from having a safe and equal life.”
Girls Connect with Member of the European Parliament
Hanna, 21, Germany
Hanna and Anouk participated in Girls Connect with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) they had the chance to meet with MEP Herzberger-Fofana and MEP Gonzalez to discuss gender equality and girls rights.
“During the EWAG, I had the opportunity to exchange with a member of the European Parliament on furthering gender equality in the framework of the EU-Africa partnership and beyond. What I loved about being part of the week was not only to experience the support for girl’s and women’s rights from decision-makers in the EU but also the preparatory meetings leading up to it. We had an amazing mix of people that were all deeply invested in empowering girls and it was truly inspiring and uplifting to be able to connect with them!”
Anouk, 27, Belgium
“The reason why I think it is so very important that we engage in advocacy is because I believe in equality. We cannot create a better world for all when half of the world’s potential is left out. That is why girls’ voices need to be heard. Girls too will be the changemakers in society, entrepreneurs coming up with local and global solutions. We will be educationalists, scientists, business leaders, politicians, and overall engaged citizens.
In our role as Youth Ambassadors for the ONE Campaign, we were invited to take part in the European Girl’s Week of Action, during which we did research on girl’s rights and reality, exchanged knowledge and personal experiences and worked together as a team.
We could live this wonderful experience because we are encouraged to make our voices heard, have educational opportunities, and internet access. As EWAG activists, we want to make sure that this will not just be a right on paper, but become a reality for all girls.”
Visit our website http://europeanweekofactionforgirls.org/ and follow us on Instagram: @EUgirlsweek