Today, we join the rest of the world to commemorate the International Youth Day. This year’s theme, “Transforming Education” seeks to contribute to achieving the 4th goal of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which is “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

At SIHA, we recognize that female youth have a right to recreation and socialization just as their male counterparts while seeking an all-encompassing education a plethora of opportunities to unlock their potential. 

Phiona Mutesi – A Ugandan Chess Champion (Photo: Web)

On this day, we look to Phiona Mutesi, chess champion and humanitarian who proved to the world that a teenage girl could be named “The Most Influential Athlete in Uganda” during the Commonwealth Games. From living on the street in the slums of Katwe, she has inspired many marginalized girls to reach for their dreams, outside of the bounds of formal education. Her victory makes us all acknowledge the importance of alternative education and recreational activity for girls. Sports and the like are not just reserved for boys if we make sure that our girls are included under the term “youth,” and strive to give female youth the same opportunities as the male youth.

Teams of female youth getting ready to take part in a basketball tournament in Wau, South Sudan (Photo: SIHA Archives)

SIHA continues to explore and champion more innovative methods to unlock the potential of female youth in the Horn of Africa. It is important to be able to provide safe spaces that allow for the recreational activities of female youth – where they can interact with their male counterparts on an equal basis, and where their youth is embraced.

These young women are part of a girls’ association in Khartoum, Sudan (Photo: SIHA Archives)

Female youth, especially in the Horn of Africa must be enabled to explore their youth as their male counterparts do, so that the expectations of young women within society are transformed. These rudimentary expectations are forcing the female youth to make the jump from childhood to womanhood with no progression period, such as with forced marriage, imposed responsibilities, and deprivation of education. 

Young female youth taking part in vocational training in mechanics, in Khartoum, Sudan

Female youth are often socialized to assume domestic and care responsibilities, with the assumption that they will be economically dependent on men. The stereotype of men as breadwinners leads to the prioritization of male youth’ education – leaving the female youth behind. In view of this, SIHA developed its work initiative of breaking gender stereotypes in the work environment with the view of opening new discourse in Sudan on young women’s work – with a focus on identifying the best ways to provoke mind and behavioral change towards women in work.

Female youth part of the Danjire Girls’ Association, in Hargeisa, Somaliland (Photo: SIHA Archives) 

SIHA is providing all female and male youth alike, with an alternative education on GBV. Here we strive to shift norms around violence against young women by implementing an educational curriculum that is effective in doing this. More so, SIHA has engaged the wider communities to raise awareness about GBV and promote the prevention and response to GBV and forced marriage.

Returning migrant female youth taking part in Art Therapy Training in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Photo: SIHA Archive)

On this 2019 International Youth Day, SIHA would like to further assert the following recommendations:

  • All young women must undeniably be included within the term “youth” – allowing them equal opportunity and access to education. Likewise, educational institutions must accommodate female youth in view of roles that may coincide with their time for learning e.g. the establishment of evening and night classes;
  • All female youth must be given the same chance as their male counterparts to participate in extracurricular and recreational learning;
  • Communities, especially across the Horn of Africa must be engaged in the fight against social stigma, where prerequisites are set on the life of a female youth;