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Feminist Leaders Speak Up On The Importance Of A Young Feminist Future

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The Generation Equality Forum Paris that started from June 30 and will continue till July 2 brings together governments, feminist leaders youth and change makers from around the world and different sectors. This forum strives to fuel investment for gender equality, and strengthen movements all over the globe for women’s rights.

Bold voices coming from young leaders, particularly young girls now demand a seat at every decision-making table. Therefore, all policies and programmes are carefully designed and implemented efficiently to cater to diverse rights and needs of the global populace.

To consolidate the experiences of the youth, UN Women and the National Youth Gender Advocates organised a day-long session called the India Young Feminist Dialogue. This dialogue called for cohesive acknowledgement that arises from the impact youth-led processes can create.

The idea was to recognise the effort as a necessary step in the right direction for all national and international advocacy endeavours. It aimed at unifying the leadership of young people drive to yield their substantive, coherent and systematic participation.

Generation Equality Forum is trying to establish the demand for larger participation of young feminists who are important stakeholders in the larger movement that seeks to advance gender equality and ensure sustainable results for the future. UN Women held an interactive session with youth gender activists, coming from different sections of the country. The idea was to build a discourse on why they believe in budding a young feminist future and where we go from this point on. Here are snippets from what the panellists said.

What feminist leaders have to say

Gauri Nimbalkar, a 15-year-old gender activist from Bandra, Mumbai says  “I believe that while GEF has been working on building an environment of involvement for young people, the potential of the same has not been met. Our voices are heard but now it’s time to act on the same with the help of leaders since prevention is better than cure while fighting for any cause.”

Deepa Pawar, the founder and director of Anubhuti, an organisation led by young women said that what drives her to continue work in gender is the zeal of the younger generation. She added that she is amazed at how the next generation can question feminism the way we’ve known it. “It’s ever- evolving,” she added.

The Programme Manager of Nazariya, QFRG (a queer feminist resource group), Jitender (pronouns: they/them) cited, We need to address the issues of queer people while addressing violence. Queer people continue to face institutional challenges in creating safe spaces.” They further added, “We need to break the binary and think beyond, to make the movement more inclusive.

Srinidhi Raghavan, the Co- Leader of Rising Flames wanted hope for avenues for more vibrant participation, particularly of those with compounded vulnerabilities. Raghavan added that disabled people are stakeholders in every issue, and therefore they need more representation at every issue plaguing the society.

Firdos Zehra, who is a National Youth Gender Advocate for Generation Equality Forum strongly felt that the biggest challenge continues to be our fight for financial and social independence. She added that as a Muslim woman, some of the biggest challenges she has had to overcome is the resistance from her community. “I believe women and girls are endowed with all the qualities and intelligence required to be independent- we just need a chance,” Zehra said.

Manisha Mashaal, an accomplished Dalit woman activist stated, “The issues of caste and gender need to be incorporated in school books. Our communities continue to remain unaware about how the intersection of caste and gender work. Because of lack of meaningful collaborations, resources, and leadership building, Dalit and grassroot voices often go unheard.”

A Research Associate at the Gender Desk, CASA (Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action), India Vrushali Kadam was also present among all feminist leaders. CASA is an Indian development and humanitarian organisation. She stated that there should be a ‘behavioural change’ to achieve a true feminist accountability. “We should be more sensitive and empathetic and not just blindly follow the targets set for our stakeholders,” said Kadam.

Sanya Seth happens to be the India Lead for Generation Equality Forum, UN Women. She spoke on how the answer is not simply setting an ambitious roadmap for action but bridging gaps, bringing diverse stakeholders to the table and sharing responsibilities.

Prabhleen Tuteja, the Director of Programmes, YP Foundation expressed, “GEF acknowledges the crucial role young people play in the heart of change. To achieve a transformation agenda, we need to follow a multi-pronged approach that connects, amplifies and seeks commitments from all stakeholders.” YP foundation seeks to facilitate young people’s feminist and rights-based leadership on issues of health equity, gender justice, sexuality rights, and social justice.

Finally, Priyanka Samy, the National Gender Youth Activist for Generation Equality Forum said that our politics should be rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion. “There has to be a distribution of resources and power between marginalisation – caste, sexual orientation, age and religion. There is a dire need for introspection so that we don’t replicate the patriarchal and casteist models of the past,” she added.