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UN Youth Envoy talks Ending FGM, Empowering Young Girls and Women and Investing in Youth Development in High Level Gambia Bilateral Meetings

6 February 2017 – Banjul, Gambia

The United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth continues her five (5) nation mission in Africa with a second day in Banjul, Gambia with a series of high level bilateral meetings. These included an audience with the Vice President of the Republic of the Gambia, Her Excellency Fatoumata Tambajang, a brief dialogue with the Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Mariam Jack-Denton and representatives of the Select Committee on Youth, in addition to attending the launching of the Gambia National Development Plan (2018 – 2021) at the invitation of the President of the Republic of the Gambia.

In her meeting with the Her Excellency Fatoumata Tambajang, the Vice President of Gambia, the Youth Envoy expressed profound excitement to be in the company of a high level national leader who is a woman. Recalling the history of her native country Sri Lanka, which provided one of the world’s first Female Head of State, the Youth Envoy noted the importance of such leaders in providing inspiration, empowering and mentoring young girls and women. She appreciated the Vice President for being a symbol for other women and was encouraged by her leadership and work to advance the lives of young people in the country.

As part of the audience with the Vice President, the Youth Envoy, alongside the UNFPA Country Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Gambia delivered the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Statement on the occasion of the 2018 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, commemorated annually on 6th February. “Given the rising number of girls at risk, this is a race against trends. But with increased investment and redoubled political commitment, with greater community engagement and more empowered women and girls, it is a race that can be won.” Prior to this, the Youth Envoy addressed an International Forum on Developing strategies to end Female Genital Mutilation on 5th February in Banjul, Gambia.

“The biggest investment a country can make is in youth development…and to know where a country is going, look at its budget”. Speaking at the National Assembly at the invitation of the Speaker of the Gambia National Assembly, Hon. Mariam Jack-Denton, the Youth Envoy stressed her message on sustained investment in young people, particularly in countries experiencing a booming youth population, as a means to harnessing the demographic dividend. In addition to this, the Envoy also offered three recommendations as a means to empower young people and these included “making sustainable investment in education, empowering young girls and stakeholder partnerships”. Also at the dialogue were members of the Standing Committees on Women and Youth of the national assembly, who shared their excitement to receive the UN Youth Envoy and welcomed any opportunity for partnership.

Prior to visiting the national assembly, the Youth Envoy and her delegation were invited by the President of the Republic of the Gambia, His Excellency Adama Barrow, to attend the launching the National Development Plan (2018 – 2021). Working through a wave of transformation, the President, his Government and Partners are driven to empower the people of the country with the opportunities and resources to make an active contribution in the country’s development. The plan launched is anchored on eight (8) key strategies, with that on “investing towards harnessing the demographic dividend” in Gambia by investing in young people identifying well with the UN Youth Envoy’s mandate.