It all started in 2017 with a Facebook post. Moneera Yassien asked women in her online community in Sudan to voice their experiences with violence as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. She woke up the next day to 15 anonymous messages.
Yassien began to post screenshots of the women’s stories online. By the end of the campaign, she had received almost 300 messages.
“It was a moment of realization for me because this was just my social circle on Facebook,” says Yassien, who is 22 and based in Khartoum, Sudan. “I realized there was this need.”
While comprehensive data on violence against women in Sudan is not available, globally 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
In response, Yassien founded AMNA two years ago, a youth-led organization working to end all forms of violence against women in Sudan. The organization takes many approaches, including training young people on advocacy, organizing events, campaigns and awareness trainings, and creating and sharing online content on violence. Their work spans topics ranging from women and economic abuse, to child and forced marriage and, more recently, given the political situation in Sudan, women’s political participation.
Running AMNA is just one of the many hats Yassien wears. She is also a social entrepreneur, economics graduate, researcher, a UNDP consultant on youth empowerment, and a women’s rights activist. Yassien shared her experiences of doing this work at last month’s Tunis Forum on Gender Equality, a three-day conference co-organized by UNDP, UN Women and the Governments of Tunisia and Sweden. She was one of many young women in attendance. The forum focused on youth participation that could be inclusive of, and responsive to, the concerns of future generations of global leaders.
The Tunis Forum was one of the first to take stock of the progress made since the ground-breaking Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which aims at removing all obstacles to women’s participation in public and private life and which approaches its 25th anniversary next year. The next major event to help take the agenda forward in the lead up to Beijing+25 is the Women Deliver 2019 Conference. Taking place in Vancouver, Canada, on 3-6 June, the conference on gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women is expected to draw more than 7,000 participants from around the world. Its focus is on the theme of power, how it can drive – or hinder – progress and change.
Yassien says ones of the things that empowered her to start AMNA, which now has four full-time employees, 12 volunteers and 500 community ambassadors, was her participation in UNDP’s Youth Leadership Programme (YLP), which encourages young people to hone their leadership skills. She was part of the first cohort in 2015.
In addition to fueling her passion, the programme provided her with the necessary business skills and knowledge on development issues, as well as gender sensitivity and analysis, to set up her organization.
It was through doing research for AMNA on the issue of violence against women in Sudan, that Yassien first came across the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. While she says much progress has been made since then, such as changing laws and increasing women’s political participation, it needs to be expanded.
“For Beijing+25, we are going to be acquiring the problems and challenges we had 25 years ago in addition to women and STEM, women and innovation, women entrepreneurs, climate change, and all the modern challenges we’re dealing with,” she says.
Yassien hopes the declaration’s next iteration will also highlight the intersectionality of women’s challenges.
“Intersectionality isn’t just a buzzword or academic terminology that we use. It’s our lives, it’s us,” she says. “Being black, African, Muslim, Arab, and also a young woman, all this affects me in different ways. This is what I hope to see in Beijing+25, that we are considering how the narrative has changed, and how all these identities reflect us.”
While Yassien won’t be attending Women Deliver next week, she says it’s essential that these large global events continue to include the voices and experiences of younger women, in the lead up to and during Beijing+25. Her generation brings new aspects of the challenges they’re facing to the conversation, as well as new ideas of how to tackle them.
“We should be everywhere. I want to make sure that every challenge that I face now is brought to the conversation, is part of the conversation, is tackled through Beijing+25,” says Yassien. “Our role as young feminists is to ensure that we’re moving ahead, to make sure that the next generation will not have to have these same conversations.”