UNICEF India: Bringing Together Young Minds to Deliberate and Share their Voices to Promote Gender Equality

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National: To mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNICEF Maharashtra and The Consulate General of Ireland organised a panel discussion with Prof. Vibhuti Patel, an eminent Gender Economist and Feminist, Consuls General of Belgium, Finland, France, United States of America, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Norway and the students of IIT Bombay, St. Xavier’s College and Sophia College (Autonomous).

The panel brought the spotlight on the importance of gender-responsive, equity-driven advocacy, by bringing together young minds to deliberate, discuss, and learn from each other about the role of young people in promoting gender equality. The panel discussion highlighted the harmful gender norms that start small but are perpetuated everywhere- at home and in various spheres of our society. These discriminatory practices denied girls equal rights and opportunities for participation and leadership and a chance to live life to the fullest. The young people from IIT Bombay, St. Xavier’s College, and Sophia College were urged to share their voices and learn from each other about the role of young people in promoting gender equality and take centre stage to shape solutions for their generation and be partners in achieving equal rights of empowerment, development, and protection for all children.

The discussion concluded with the participants pledging their support to ‘Be a Champion’ for every girl’s right to equal opportunities in life. Students from diverse backgrounds and institutions like IIT Bombay, St. Xavier’s College and Sophia College (Autonomous) actively participated in the meet-up.

Anita Kelly,  Consul General, Consulate General of Ireland, highlighted that  ensuring the participation of girls in all spheres can challenge gender norms and change attitudes in schools, playgrounds, and homes,” She said that  “Girls and boys everywhere, dream of a better future, and when girls do better, we all do better!”

While interacting with the students, Prof Vibhuti Patel, an eminent gender economist and feminist, shared “We need to understand that women and girls need to be represented and heard, be it for studies in school, business leadership, or voice in policy making, and we need to imbibe this culture among children from a young age. Schools will play an important role in filling this gap and being more open to having conversations about gender disparity and societal norms. Parents and caregivers should make a safe space for their children to speak out and teach them to share the care work at home, rather than defining jobs as per gender. All in all, we need to invest in girls’ rights for the betterment of our nation.”

Alpa Vora, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Maharashtra, said: “UNICEF is deeply committed to supporting the Government so every child can survive, thrive, and pursue their dreams. The quest for gender equality runs at the core of all of UNICEF’s work in India. This is a great opportunity to advocate for better, safer, and empowering lives for millions of girls and boys. We greatly value this partnership with The Consulate General of Ireland to raise awareness and promote gender equality among millions of young fans and followers, and urge them to be champions, especially for girls.”