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Discussing youth engagement for National action: UNFPA supports International Youth Day conversation

Recognising the role young people play in national development efforts, is key to help position them to realise their maximum potential. During this COVID-19 pandemic, Gambia young people are mobilising action and impact lives in their communities by contributing towards the National COVID-19 Response. Thus, on Wednesday 12 August 2020, Peace Hub The Gambia joined the rest of the world to commemorate International Youth Day by convening a webinar on the theme: “Youth Engagement for National Action: Fighting COVID-19 and Enhancing Youth Leadership in The Gambia”. Supported by UNFPA, the webinar was aimed at creating a platform for influential youth leaders with expertise and understanding of critical youth and development issues to share their knowledge with a greater audience. It was also meant to serve as a space for reflection and sharing perspectives on youth engagement, particularly, strides registered by young people in the political space and beyond, the challenges confronting the largest constituents of our population - youth and women - as the country grapples with the realities of a pandemic.

Joined by over 500 young people via Zoom and Facebook, the webinar was hosted by dynamic young journalist Ms Jainaba Sonko, host of the Youth Dialogue on QTV and brought together panelists such as Lamin Darboe - Youth and Development Specialist, Fatou Lamin Jeng - Gender and Climate Action Activist and Alhajie S. Nyang, National Coordinator ACTIVISTA The Gambia. 

On her part, Fatou Jeng highlighted that women play a critical role in the National COVID-19 response because they form a critical mass of frontline health workers such as nurses, midwives, doctors, auxiliary staff in health facilities as well as provide unpaid care work in households, including tending to sick family members. This, she said, must be recognised as valuable contributions to efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic. Fatou went further to create a nexus between the impact of COVID19 vis-à-vis the projected increase in incidences of Gender-Based Violence, highlighting that stay-at-home measures resulting from the pandemic means more women and girls are forced to spend more time with abusers they live, thus exposing them to abuse. She also stressed that “this pandemic has hugely affected the economic activities of women, especially those involved in business and petty trading as a means of earning an income and taking care of their families.

According to Alhajie S. Nyang, more young people are effectively participating in leadership and politics and making their voices heard on various civic platforms. This is why he believes Gambian young people, including the young women fraternity must continue their strides because of the innovative initiatives they are currently driving and their inherent ability to make positive impact in the communities they live in or work with. Alhajie pointed out that COVID-19 is a challenge that the whole world is grappling with and as such, young people are not exempted from this reality. He however posited that the resilience of young people is a great value to help in reinforce local and national response efforts.

In delivering his presentation, Lamin Darboe highlighted the contribution of young people in the fight against COVID-19 ranging from the public health, the police, youth leaders etc.  According to him, young people should continue sensitising their peers to stay safe and adhere to precautions directed by health experts. Lamin shared that youth engagement in the COVID-19 Response so far has been on community engagement and awareness raising, However, he highlighted that there is still room for improvement as far as mainstreaming youth in community contact tracing efforts is concerned and the provision of tailor made services such as alternative job and income opportunities to address the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Peace Hub The Gambia was founded by Bakary Sonko, one of the beneficiaries of UNFPA’s The Gambia UN Peacebuilding supported project on increasing women and participation in decision making and as agents of community conflict prevention. Bakary participated in the project activities and was later supported by the Country Office to participate in a training by the Peacebuilding Institute in Rwanda. This support inspired him to found an organisation that sparks conversations and inspires Gambian young people to be actively engaged in leadership and peacebuilding processes in the country.

 

 

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Media contact:

Haddy Jonga - Programme Analyst Communications, UNFPA The Gambia jonga@unfpa.org   

Isatou Jallow - Communications Associate, UNFPA The Gambia ijallow@unfpa.org