News and Views

Network for Gender Equality Launched

Partners: NAWO, WAGGGS, Soroptimist International, UK Youth, Plan International, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, The Girls Network, Exeter University.

In February the Network partners got really busy preparing for the launch of the Network for Gender Equality on 23 May.

Since the Symposium meeting in September last year (that NAWO & NAWO YWA spoke at) it became increasingly apparent a group of like-minded organisations based in the UK passionate and committed to working towards the achievement of SDG Goal 5 – gender equality – with a particular focus on young people and achieving equality through leadership and development and practice had a lot to offer.  Collectively we have many years of experience researching and working with youth development, gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Our aim is to build a shared momentum around the activities in this space increasing its visibility and impact – policy development and public perception – and creating opportunities for partnership working.

At NAWO we are really excited to be part of the network. Barbara, our network representative, along with Yasmin Wilkinson said – “the bringing together of key partners in the achievement of gender equality for young people has to be a good thing – a collective voice is so much more powerful. Together we have the opportunity to find new ways of doing things that are truly transformative.”

The Society of Chemical Industry in Belgrave Square hosted our launch. We were delighted to have Elysia McCaffrey Director for Women in Business Division at the Government Equalities Office join us as our Keynote speaker. Elysia set the tone for the evening with an inspiring and informative presentation of the women’s movement journey for gender equality – the successes and the challenges and motivated us all with the desire to keep going. We discussed why it is important there are more women in leadership roles – in work, in government, in society and the challenges women face getting there. The room was buzzing with thoughts and ideas and a genuine commitment to contribute to the common good.

Getting ready for the panel discussion

Elysia was followed by an awesome panel of young people. We were all blown away by their insight and profound contributions  –  Tessy Antony co-founder of a social enterprise Professors without Borders, Sara Lewis Youth Advocacy and Activism Assistant at Plan International, Jean-Ann Ndow Advocacy Manager at WAGGGS’, Melissa Stoakes Regional Director The Duke of Edinburgh International Awards and Yasmin Wilkinson – Young Women’s Alliance at the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations. The Panel each gave us an insight into their perception of gender equality from their personal experiences and then together we explored what women in leadership can do to encourage the next generation – one of the overriding thoughts was the opportunity to learn how to be Leaders in school which fits well with the work NAWO does working with young people building their knowledge and confidence to be advocates for gender quality and fulfil their own personal dreams. The need for more role models was identified as one of the most effective ways of making leadership a reality for young women and girls. We also looked at how we engage men as our allies to improve access and experience of leadership for women.  Yasmin said “we need to start normalising working women, working mothers and women in leadership positions –  the sooner we do this – there won’t be a need for a company to make a statement when hiring a female CEO, and it won’t make headlines just because she is a woman. Men can play a part removing the stigma around women being less reliable in leadership positions because they might take maternity leave…….. and treat all candidates with objective judgement of their suitability and make the strongest statement by simply leading by example”.

Since its launch the Network has held its first open meeting. This was very much a brainstorming session to begin to scope out how as a Network we can work towards achieving our aims. We decided that going forward our first task would be to focus our energy on building the rationale/business case for why investing in girls and young women’s leadership is essential to achieving gender equality as it was felt this is something that all our organisations would benefit from as well as use our time together to host learning sessions – simply for the purpose of understanding what each organisation is working on; our approaches to leadership and to generate wider discussions of gaps, challenges and best practice. We aim to meet again early September.