Category: Youth Rights

Category: Youth Rights

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

April 23, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Katrina Leclerc

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Agnieszka Fal Dutra-Santos

“Afghan women have been fighting for their right to be meaningfully included in the peace process with the Taliban throughout the past 20 years. Today, we are afraid that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this progress will be lost, and provisions on women rights will be removed from the peace agreement.” This concern, shared by Sadaf Tahib, the Communication Associate of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association (AWWDA), was echoed by many of over 50 youth peacebuilders from 11 countries, who came together in an online meeting to share their experiences of preventing conflict and violent extremism, building peace, and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

The meeting was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, on April 15, 2020. It was the first-time members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan, came together. They were joined by women and youth leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Ukraine. By discussing the peace and security problems and the solutions to them amidst the pandemic and despite network connectivity issues, the women and youth peacebuilders sent a powerful message: COVID-19 will not stop us!

The event was also an opportunity to launch the Toolkit and Film for Young Women and Girls on Literacy, Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Media, and Theater. The toolkit and film are evidence-based, context-specific resources for elevating the voices and work of young women in preventing conflict and violent extremism drawn from GNWP’s work. They were developed based on the experiences of young women peacebuilders in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and good practices drawn from GNWP’s work around the world.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows including the aggravated levels of personal anxiety and stress, the women and peacebuilders underscored the need to hold regular discussions and continue supporting each other. Members of the YWL shared their frontline initiatives to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and youth peacebuilders. This is showcased in the new podcast ‘GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security’: Episode 25 on the Young Women Leaders Global Dialogue.

Young women’s frontline leadership

Speaking from Bangladesh, Young Women Leaders Machen Hia and Mathenu Rakhine, shared that they joined the YWL program to “make sure that there is peace and gender equality in [their] community in Cox’s Bazar.” They emphasized that there is still a lot of challenges, and highlighted their contributions to improving the gender sensitivity of humanitarian emergency response to the influx of 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They also shared their experience pre-COVID of conducting gender-sensitive, age-appropriate fundamental literacy and numeracy classes to Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Young Women Leaders are workingto prevent, support and counter increased sexualized violence during the pandemic. During the meeting, Emilie Katondolo and Nicole Musimbi, shared that this work includes using media and technology to dismantle and challenge narratives of ‘victims’ to ‘survivors’ of sexual violence, and ensuring accurate and updated information is provided to women and youth across the communities of Eastern DRC. “Through our program, we try to provide women with opportunities to make income, so that they can improve their financial situation and change their life,” said Nicole.

In Indonesia, Young Women Leaders for Peace, conduct community-level advocacy on women’s rights; gender equality; youth, peace and security (YPS); and human security. Prior to COVID-19, young women have held advocacy meetings in their communities and have developed strong relationships with district-level leaders. Nur Aisyah Maullidah, Ilmiyah Maslahatul and Ririn Anggraeni, shared that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the YWL Indonesia have held online English classes to continue their capacity-building amidst the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Young Women Leaders are also at the forefront of COVID-19 response. Sophia Garcia and Lynrose Genon, presented that young women are distributing face masks, disinfectants, and ‘dignity kits’ to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met. These kits are prepared by YWL members and distributed to internally displaced women and youth in Sagonsongan Transitional Temporary Shelter in Marawi, a city ravaged by armed conflict between extremist groups and the Philippine Armed Forces.

Speaking from South Sudan, Elizabeth Biniya, a member ofYoung Women Leaders, and Nyuon Susan Sebit, former Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at GNWP, discussed their efforts in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. The South Sudanese young women leaders are using community radio to raise awareness of domestic violence and the available support for those affected. They also disseminate information on preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. Additionally, the South Sudanese Young Women Leaders organize theater performances in Torit, South Sudan to raise awareness on women’s rights, gender equality, and peace and security among local populations.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is important to recognize and promote the synergies between the women and peace and security (WPS) and youth and peace and security (YPS) agendas and how they are linked to humanitarian emergencies. This is highlighted during this global COVID-19 pandemic as we see young women peacebuilders who step up and become first responders in their local communities. In doing so, they not only mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis but they also secure the gains of Afghan women and all other women and youth peacebuilders who have been demanding to meaningfully participate in peace processes and all levels of decision-making.

Want to support young women leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic? Share and donate here.

GNWP is grateful for the support of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and the collaboration of the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta – Bangladesh for the production of the Toolkit and Film.

Please see also other articles produced by the GNWP on COVID-19 and the women and peace and security, and youth and peace and security agendas:

Young Women & Girls Read, Lead & Build Peaceful Communities

Young Women & Girls Read, Lead & Build Peaceful Communities

A publication of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, funded by NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.

© 2019 Global Network of Women Peacebuilders Printed in New York, New York, USA


Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Mallika Iyer, and Prativa Khanal

Module author

Literacy and Numeracy: Saifuzzaman Rana

Peer Reviewer and Editor

Eleonore Veillet-Chowdhury

Contributor and Copy-Editor

Katrina Leclerc

Publication Coordinator

Mallika Iyer

Layout and Design

Pam Liban


We thank the participants of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace capacity building trainings in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and Poso, Central Sulawesi and Lamongan, East Java, Indonesia. We also thank GNWP’s local partners: Jago Nari Unnyaon Sangsta and the Asian Muslim Action Network Indonesia for sharing their experience and expertise.

We are grateful to NAMA Women Advancement Establishment for their generous support, continuous partnership, and valuable inputs into the report.

Watch our film!

Charting a Feminist Present and Future: Young Women for Peace and Leadership Program Recognized by the United Nations Secretary-General in Report to Security Council on UNSCR 2250

From DRC to Indonesia, from Bangladesh to South Sudan, young women defy gender and age stereotypes and act as leaders, peacebuilders and agents of change in their communities. They are first responders in humanitarian crises, prevent recruitment by violent groups by building a culture of peace, and set up small businesses to increase their financial independence and support their families. In the absence of formal mechanisms and opportunities to meaningfully participate in peace processes and social, political and economic life, young women have forged their own avenues to lead peacebuilding efforts and movements for progressive social transformation.

Where are the women and youth peacebuilders?

Civil society Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition launches its Advocacy Paper, calls for meaningful inclusion of Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security in Generation Equality Forum

March 30, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Katrina Leclerc

With the outbreak of the global pandemic of COVID-19, civil society-led Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition strategized and mobilized. The pandemic did not stop their global advocacy: on March 17, 2020, they hosted an online event “Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders?”, originally planned during the now-cancelled United Nations’ 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

As the situation continued to evolve – the CSW first postponed, then cancelled; gatherings in New York limited to maximum 10 people, then strongly discouraged altogether – women and youth peacebuilders who comprise the Action Coalition strategized and revised the modality of the event. Their determination and the success of the online discussion send a clear message: “Our resolve will not be stifled by the COVID-19. Our voices will not be silenced!”

Ultimately, the event took the form of a virtual roundtable discussion, which brought together 180 participants representing the civil society, Member States, and UN entities. They engaged in a strategic discussion on the necessary actions for the implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas and their intentional and meaningful inclusion in the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) process and outcomes, in order to prevent the weakening of agreed-upon language in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security resolutions.

“There cannot be empowerment without peace, and there cannot be peace without gender equality,” said Mallika Iyer, GNWP’s Program Officer, as she introduced the Advocacy Paper developed by the Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition identifying and coordinating messaging on key recommendations from civil society within the Beijing+25/GEF process. The key messages and recommendations of the paper were presented by participating organizations of the civil society-led Action Coalition from Afghanistan, Latin America, Iraq, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Ukraine, and Canada. Their message was echoed by many of the other high-level speakers and grassroots activists who took the floor during the discussion.

Keynote speakers included Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and initiator of UNSCR 1325, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, former Chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Bandana Rana, Vice-Chair of the CEDAW Committee, Ms. Paivi Kannisto, Chief, Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Section at  UN Women, Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security, Ms. Cecile Mazzacurati, Head of the Secretariat of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security at UNFPA and Ms. Shannon Kowalski, from the International Women’s Health Coalition and the civil society representative to the GEF Core Group and Dr. Lina Abirafeh, Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University. All of them have agreed that the GEF offers an important opportunity to step up the commitment and action for gender equality. As Ambassador Chowdhury put it, “The year 2020 gives us the opportunity to put renewed energy to roll back the dual scourges of patriarchy and misogyny” – but only if WPS and YPS are meaningfully integrated into all discussions and outcomes.

In an encouraging development for women and youth peacebuilders around the world, keynote speaker Ms. Sarah Hendricks, Director, Policy, Program, and Intergovernmental Division at UN Women announced that GEF’s core group set up a task force to identify specific actions that can strengthen WPS and YPS integration into the GEF process. The task force identified four possible modalities for WPS and YPS integration and conducted consultations with the civil society, from which two options emerged as the most viable:

1)        a stand-alone Action Coalition, or

2)        a “hybrid” mechanism, which, for now, has been termed a WPS compact

Ms. Hendricks explained that the compact approach has some strong level of support, as it would build on existing normative frameworks of both the WPS and YPS agendas, while remaining grounded in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Discussions on the potential compact will continue to be shaped based on consultations with civil society, Member States, and the core group of the GEF process.

The welcome announcement came as a result of persistent civil society advocacy over the past months. The strong and enthusiastic participation of peacebuilding organizations from around the world in the virtual discussion shows that women and youth peacebuilders are ready to continue the advocacy for their meaningful inclusion in GEF progress and outcomes. As Ms. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, CEO and founder of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders emphasized in her closing remarks, “COVID-19 will not stop women and youth peacebuilders from our advocacy to make our voices heard!”

Want to know more about the Beijing+25 Action Coalition on WPS-YPS? Click here.

For full recording of the March 17th event: Click here.

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

March 18, 2020 by Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Agnieszka Fal Dutra Santos and Katrina Leclerc with contributions from Jenaina Irani

The Women and Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, and Peace and Security (YPS) agendas cannot be siloed from the gender equality agenda! This was the resounding message from Ambassadors Ghanshyam Bhandari of Nepal, Xolisa Mabhongo of South Africa and Victoria Sulimani of Sierra Leone who co-sponsored the online roundtable discussion Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders? on March 17, 2020. The message from the three Ambassadors reinforces the persistent call and advocacy of more than 150 civil society networks and organizations that formed a civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[1] in November 2019: The call was further reiterated by the other speakers who expressed concern about the under-representation of women and youth peacebuilders in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and its new incarnation, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF); and called for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS.  

Making our voices heard: civil society Advocacy Paper on WPS and YPS

The roundtable discussion was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) on behalf of the civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[3]. It was initially planned as an in-person event. However, given the movement restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID19), the organizers have decided to hold the event online. This did not deter civil society, government and UN representatives from around the world from attending. A staggering 180+ participants joined the online roundtable to discuss the centrality of peace and security in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the GEF and its outcomes.

The discussion also served as the platform to launch the Advocacy Paper, a document which explores the nexus between the gender equality agenda and WPS and YPS agendas, and presents actionable recommendations for the achievement of lasting gender equality for all – with an inclusive peace as its pre-requisite. Developed through a participatory process with substantive inputs from regional, national and local organizations that form the civil society-led Action Coalition, the Advocacy Paper reflects a broad range of views and perspectives of what gender equality means in the context of conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations.  Its core message is clear: there can be no empowerment without peace; and no peace without gender equality!

This key message drove the civil-society led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition to staunchly advocate for the full, intentional and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS in all outcomes of the Beijing +25 and GEF processes. This includes in particular the Action Coalitions, the multi-stakeholder thematic groupings expected to catalyze collective action, spark global and inter-generational conversations, mobilize resources and political will, and deliver results that further advance equality for women and girls. WPS and YPS were not included among the Action Coalitions announced by UN Women in early 2020. Peace and security was also not included among the cross-cutting issues.

New possibilities: Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS

One of the highlights of the roundtable discussion was the presentation by Ms. Sarah Hendriks, UN Women’s Director of Policy, Program and Intergovernmental Division. She presented several different options to ensure meaningful and intentional integration of the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF, which were devised by the GEF Task Force in response to the civil society advocacy:

1. A stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS;

2. Broadening an existing Action Coalition by incorporating WPS and YPS;

3. Integrating WPS and YPS actions across all existing Action Coalitions; and

4. Building a Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS to spur action on the existing normative frameworks on WPS and humanitarian action.

According to Ms. Hendriks, consultations with women and youth peacebuilders in New York and around the world reveal that a Stand-alone Action Coalition and a Compact Coalition are the most acceptable and highly viable options. The Compact Coalition, which Ms. Hendricks referred to as a “hybrid solution” in particular emerged as a salient option, given the fact that there is already a strong normative framework and a number of coordination mechanisms on WPS. The Compact Coalition would help consolidate and advance the normative framework on WPS – including National Action Plans – and bring more visibility and opportunities for implementation of both WPS and YPS, without replicating already existing efforts. Ms. Hendricks explained some of the principles of the Compact Coalition further, including:

1. It would be grounded in the principles of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action;

2. It would purposely and intentionally engage young women peacebuilders & young women affected by crises;

3. It would strengthen coordination between the existing WPS and humanitarian action systems, networks, mechanisms, partnerships and capacities;

4. Women and young women peacebuilders & crisis-affected women and young women – would be meaningfully included in its design and management structure;

5. It would be guaranteed strong visibility throughout the GEF process and will serve as an opportunity to give impetus to the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325;

6. It would receive the recognition, political support and financial commitment akin to this given to the Action Coalitions;

7. It would be accompanied by sustainable and predictable financing, with due diligence applied to the funding partners; and would include an accountability mechanism.

We have come a long way: civil society advocacy for women and youth peacebuilders voices

The announcement of the four options – including the Compact Coalition – came following months of intense civil society advocacy for meaningful and intentional integration of WPS and YPS in the GEF. Prior to the roundtable discussion and the launch of the Advocacy Paper, the Beijing + 25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition under the coordination of GNWP, circulated an open letter to the core group of the GEF[2] calling for the official recognition of the WPS-YPS Action Coalition.  The UN High-Level Advisory Group for the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 under the coordination of Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury also sent out a letter to the GEF Core Group calling for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. GNWP CEO, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza wrote an op-ed “A Woman Peacebuilder’s Reflections on Beijing+25 & the Generation Equality Forum” published by Inter Press Service that explains why the success of the GEF and its outcomes are dependent on the extent and quality of the participation of civil society groups representing diverse issues and initiatives – including women and youth peacebuilders.

Since July 2019, GNWP has actively participated in numerous discussions on the Beijing + 25 and Generation Equality Forum processes. From July 2019 to February 2020, GNWP consulted with grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations as well as national, regional, and global civil society networks to develop an Advocacy Paper that presents shared messages and recommendations of women and youth peacebuilders for the GEF, as well as the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, 5th anniversary of UNSCR 2250, and 5-year review of the Sustainable Development Goals. In December 2019, it launched the civil society-led WPS and YPS Action Coalition. It monitored the national and regional Beijing + 25 Review processes outcome documents. It participated in the “design sprint” in Paris, in February 2020, during which the modalities and format of the proposed Action Coalitions were discussed, and used this platform to demonstrate the impossibility of simply mainstreaming WPS and YPS into existing Action Coalitions. It held numerous meetings with other civil society groups from around the world, Member States, UN agencies and entities, and high-level UN leadership to advocate for a stand-alone Coalition on WPS and YPS and find ways to meaningfully integrate the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF process and outcomes.

During the roundtable discussion, GNWP stressed the commitment of civil society to work closely with UN Women and other members of the GEF Core Group to examine the details of the Compact Coalition and ensure that it leads to full and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS priorities. We have come a long way, but there is still a way to go. The civil society and women and youth peacebuilders are ready for it!

To join the Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Global Coalition listserv, please fill out this form:

For more information, please contact: Mallika Iyer, Program Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders;

[1] The civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition is composed of more than 150 grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations and civil society networks around the world who are advocating for the meaningful participation of women and youth peacebuilders in the Generation Equality Forum.

[2] The Generation Equality Forum core group is composed of the Governments of France and Mexico, UN Women and the International Women’s Health Coalition and the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women representing civil society.

[3] In partnership with The Permanent Missions of Sierra Leone, Nepal, and South Africa; UN Women; UNFPA; UNDP; The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; the NGO CSW/NY; Oxfam; Wo=men the Dutch Gender Platform; Center for Civil Society and Democracy; Canadian Council of Young Feminists; Institute of International Women’s Rights; Fontaine-Isoko and the NGO Working Group on WPS in the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Women, Peace, and Security Network – Canada; Inclusive Society; Canadian Voice of Women for Peace; and the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women