Power. Progress. Change.

Young people are changing the world today: they are advocating for positive change and shaping a gender equal world. From June 3 to 6, up to 1,400 young people from around the world came together in Vancouver to speak up, challenge discriminatory norms, collaborate and build networks. These inspirational young leaders, who are advancing gender equality in their communities and countries, joined more than 8,000 others from a multitude of sectors at Women Deliver, the world’s largest conference on gender equality.

At Save the Children, we were proud to sponsor youth leaders from across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. We supported them to meaningfully engage with a global audience, to have their messages heard, share their experiences of what works in their communities and grassroots youth networks, and persuade world leaders to make the changes they were calling for – in their own voices.

These young leaders, alongside our Canadian and global teams were joined by local and international experts from Yemen to Nepal, Peru to Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq to Mali, to name a few. Together we were proud to share tried and tested solutions to protect girls in conflict and crisis, empower adolescent girls through holistic and integrated approaches; and advance increased access to Indigenous midwifery in Canada.

One of the incredible young leaders at Women Deliver was Shalini Sahu, 24, from India. She spoke on a panel about tackling child marriage in India and what young people like herself can do. Every minute, more than 20 girls around the world get married. However, we know progress is possible – and countries like India are making huge strides to end child marriage. According to our new Childhood Report, child marriage is down 51% in India since 2000.

“I never had imagined that I would be speaking at such a big global platform about issues faced by adolescents in my own country. It is a dream come true. I still pinch myself,” Shalini explains. “It also gave me an opportunity to learn about the many problems youth face in various other parts of the globe.

“I learned how early pregnancy and forced marriage is a challenge among adolescents in countries like Mali and Niger. I must mention that I dream of a day when youth advocates will scale all odds: ‘Ek Saath Ladenge Jung, Jeetenge Hum’ which translates to ‘Together we will fight and we will win’.”

We used our presence at Women Deliver as a platform to help raise awareness about the grave violations girls in conflict are facing. Earlier this year, we released new research that found one in five children around the world live in areas affected by conflict. From being denied an education to being exposed to sexual violence, girls in crisis are disproportionately losing out on their childhoods. We asked participants at Women Deliver to demand that world leaders do more to protect girls and boys in conflict and stop the war on children.

 “Had I not been present in such a forum, I would not have understood how children and youth in war zones also are facing crisis, which has propelled Save the Children to initiate their campaign #StopTheWarOnChildren,” Shalini explains.

Using our power, through our words and actions, we can send a message to world leaders and demand change for children. Join Shalini in signing our petition to #StopTheWarOnChildren.

By Sam Halyk, Communications Specialist at Save the Children Canada