Four successes for girls at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
What happens when over 5,000 individuals from 53 countries come together for one week in London?
That was what happened in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and it produced important commitments and strategies on the pressing issues in the different countries and communities.
Alongside significant commitments to boost trade, protect our oceans and halt the effects of climate change, world leaders also ensured that adolescent girls were visible within the negotiations.
While there were important outcomes achieved during CHOGM, there is still plenty that needs to happen next.
1. Ending the exploitation of girls
We were delighted to see bold commitments made in the Leaders' Communique on ending the exploitation of girls. With more than half of those affected by forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking estimated to live in the Commonwealth, this is a positive step in catalysing international action in tackling this issue.
We know that girls and women are disproportionally affected by these issues, in many cases fuelled by gender inequality and gender-based violence. This is why youth advocates Norah and Viola from Uganda, and Hope and Georgina from Kenya, attended the Commonwealth Summit, asking their Governments to take action.
Now that Commonwealth Leaders have made strong commitments to ending exploitation, we are looking forward to seeing more Governments signing the call to action to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, and developing national strategies to prevent and respond to ending the exploitation of girls and boys.
They did it!— PlanInternational UK (@PlanUK) April 24, 2018
Heads of Government at #CHOGM218 have responded to our youth advocates' petition by making concrete commitments to end the exploitation of women and girls across the Commonwealth – in line with #SDGs 8.7 > https://t.co/iRUo4gpIMi Your signature mattered! #ThankYou pic.twitter.com/lmLyxmaIii
2. 12 years of quality education and learning
2018 is an important year for girls’ education, as progress for gender equality in the classroom has worryingly stalled - 130 million girls across the world are currently missing out on their education.
The Commonwealth Summit was the first in a series of global moments this year where there is an opportunity for world leaders to agree to act on girls’ education, so it was fantastic that they made it a key priority.
As the global focus now shifts to Canada ahead of the G7 in June and with Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent commitment to champion this issue, we hope that the momentum behind girls’ education continues to grow and the world takes the importance of girls’ education seriously.
Girls’ education is the Swiss Army knife that solves a multitude of the world’s problems. Fantastic that HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle joined me tonight to launch 12yrs of quality education for world's poorest girls in #ourCommonwealth @KensingtonRoyal #LeaveNoGirlBehind pic.twitter.com/qyjFrYyUfS— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 19, 2018
3. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights
Sexual and reproductive health and rights were on the agenda at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum – for the first time at CHOGM – and it was fantastic to be part of the conversation. Norah and Viola joined our CEO Tanya Barron on the panel to discuss important SRHR issues in the Commonwealth.
Nora, young activist says at the #CWF: “We are calling on our heads of government to, at least, focus on this. We need a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health system that is #youth friendly.” #SRHR #CHOGM2018 #SDG5 pic.twitter.com/VOV4nKTDrz— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) April 18, 2018
While it is progress that SRHR was included in the Women’s Forum outcome statement, we are disappointed that this was not recognised in the leaders’ communique.
In an increasingly hostile global environment for girls and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, progress needs to be faster and better. Over the next two years, we're calling on the UK Government, as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, to lead the Commonwealth in these discussions and champion the rights of girls and women on the global platform.
4. Listening to the voices of young people
With over 60% of the Commonwealth population aged under 30, the role of young people is critical to meet the ambition of the commitments made at CHOGM, and their role as agents of change must be recognised and valued.
Inclusion of mainstreaming youth priorities into national development plans and policies in the Leaders’ Communique, alongside the announcement of Prince Harry as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, were fantastic steps towards this.
We have developed seven key principles for decision makers on how to effectively and proactively foster meaningful participation of young people across the Commonwealth.
Governments now need to follow through their commitments with actions that enable inclusive and meaningful youth participation in the implementation, monitoring and accountability of the commitments made during CHOGM.
Follow Bekky Ashmore on Twitter @bekkyashmore
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