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I am inspired by young people of The Gambia - Youth Envoy addressing a Youth Town Hall Meeting

Banjul, February 6, 2018 — The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, met with young people at the University of Law Auditorium at the University of the Gambia. The event provided an opportunity for the Envoy’s to have an open dialogue with young people of the country, as those in attendance comprised of both members of the National Youth Council, students, and young journalists.


The meeting began with a moderated discussion with the Youth Envoy, followed by a plenary with an excited audience. Young people were happy to have the envoy vsiting Gambia, noting that her presence galvanised their efforts to push for youth development outcomes in the country. The key thematic issues to emerge from the plenary included migration, peace and security, human trafficking, youth participation, and, sexual and reproductive health – particularly in regards to addressing harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.


In an enthused exchange, young people expressed a keen interest in learning from the Envoy’s experiences since assuming her duties and how her mandate relates to the challenges shared in the plenary.


Speaking on the issues raised, the Youth Envoy noted that the progress on the Global Compact for Migration were showing encouraging developments. Additionally, the unanimous adoption of United Nations Resolution 2250 (2015) looking at Youth, Peace and Security was a welcome development. For the first time, young people are recognised as integral in the peace building process, and not just as victims or actors in conflict drivers. On female genital mutilation and child marriage, the envoy reiterated her central message delivered on 5th February during the International Forum on Developing Strategies to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation, emphasising that harmful practices are part of social norms that we must change. She further stressed that in order to empower young girls and women, all countries need to protect their rights – rights to sexual and reproductive health, bodily integrity, make decisions on their own health, and protection from harm.




The Envoy impressed on the audience that these concerns were shared by the UN, and the international community, and as such, what her purpose in the country was meant to address. “My work is mostly about bringing the UN closer to young people, and young people closer to the UN. But honestly, I have been inspired by the young people of Gambia, how you have been able to stand up and bring about this new democratic transition, and how well you are taking the opportunities that you have had.”



On their part, participants of the Townhall meeting challenged the Youth Envoy to push for greater involvement and participation of young people in the global south in UN processes and meetings. They called on the envoy to ensure the outcomes from youth meetings, such as the recently concluded ECOSOC Youth Forum, become a meaningful part of the broader discussions on youth development at the United Nations. And on a personal level, participants called on the envoy to explore opportunities to mentor young girls who would benefit greatly from her story, experiences, ideas and guidance.