This International Youth Day and South Africa’s Women’s Month will be celebrated during strange and unprecedented times as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to uproot people’s day-to-day lives and lays bare the hard truth; we still have ways to go before achieving economic, social and gender equality, especially for the youth on the continent.
Yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic shook the continent, women and youth mobilized quickly in order to provide for their families and communities by coming up with creative ways to communicate hygiene/sanitary messages to their local communities; create personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer in communities where it was unavailable; and ensure that food was still on the table. It is inspiring to see what people have been able to do in the face of these extremely challenging times.
Just like individuals had to adapt to the new world we found ourselves in, ACCORD also had to adapt in order to continue to support and advocate for youth and women.
Over the past six months, ACCORD has remained committed to its goals of enhancing the role of women and youth in peace processes. It’s first dialogue was hosted on 30 March 2020. The dialogue convened young people from different civil society organisations and academia from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia to create a platform for young people to reflect on the impact that COVID-19 is having on young people and the roles that young people are playing in responding to the crisis. On 14 May 2020, ACCORD hosted a webinar to address the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on Africa’s young people as part of ACCORD’s strategy to further understand the impact and actions taken by young people in mitigating the repercussions of the pandemic.
On 12 June 2020, ACCORD launched the Women and Youth Dialogue webinars series which aims to forge a stronger relationship between eminent women and young women peacebuilders. By bringing them together, the dialogue series seeks to create a platform for reflection, listening, and the exchange of knowledge in order to enhance conflict prevention and mitigation across Africa. The inaugural dialogue, “Women and Youth Exchanging Lessons for Peace and Security” brought together; Ms Aya Chebbi, the African Union Youth Envoy; Ms Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Executive Director of the Women’s International Peace Centre; Ms Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo, Policy Advisor on Women, Peace and Security and Coordinator of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN); and Ms Natasha Mutuwa, Coordinator of Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP) for a visionary, solution-oriented discussion on what women and youth can do to build more resilient communities in the time of COVID-19.
ACCORD has also participated in several high-level discussions including; the virtual roundtable meeting with African Ministers of Gender and Women Affairs under the theme: COVID-19 response and recovery – a gendered framework; the first virtual Gender is My Campaign (GIMAC) steering committee meeting; and the African Union Civil Society Organisations Consultation Meeting on Accelerating Actions Against Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
As we prepare for what’s to come, International Youth Day and Women’s Month in South Africa offer an important opportunity to celebrate the creative efforts that have been displayed since – but also before – the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. ACCORD is proud to be supporting and strengthening the role that women and youth contribute to their societies and communities in building a prosperous and peaceful Africa.