Josephine Mpango: Fountain of youth ready to take its place in politics – and change the world

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The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) brought ­together leaders from all 53 ­member states to discuss and take action on issues of social, economic and ­political importance across the ­Commonwealth.

I was attending the CHOGM Youth Forum to represent Scotland-Malawi links but also with a specific ­interest in discussions around gender ­equality and tackling gender-based violence. As a young person that has experienced gender-based violence, I was keen that CHOGM sought to address this issue.

I was overjoyed when, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) General Assembly, more women than men were voted onto the Executive Committee. This was a great start to CHOGM and I was inspired to see this trend continue throughout the week.

Also, in an outstanding adoption by the CYC General Assembly, a motion to support the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 was passed.

The resolution “urges member states to give youth a greater voice in decision-making at the local, national, regional and international levels and to consider setting up ­mechanisms that would enable young ­people to participate meaningfully in peace processes.” It is easy to assume that the resolution is ­exclusive to war-torn countries in conflict; however this applies to all countries, demanding the prevention and protection of youth from all forms of gender-based violence.

This ensures a more secure future for the Commonwealth’s one billion young people; particularly its young ­women and girls who are disproportionately affected.

The Commonwealth agenda is only the beginning. At the end of CHOGM, the 53 heads of government declared that youth empowerment, as well as gender equality, were critical in ­realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ­aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter.

But what does this mean for you and me, and for the young people of the Commonwealth?

I believe we are entering into what I would like to call “the decade of young people”. Soon we will be counting down the final ten years of the UN’s sustainable development goals as well as the commitments of the Commonwealth Agenda. At the end of this decade, young ­people (then, not so young) will be what we have to show for from all these international commitments and global investments.

These young people are all around us: our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Many countries have either been overconfident or in ­denial about ‘preparing’ young people for the profound change that is about to happen over the next ­decade. I am really keen to see that the promises made at CHOGM are carried through not only in Malawi and Scotland, but throughout the Commonwealth.

As much as we, as young ­people, are the beneficiaries, we are also the machinery; illustrated in the ­Commonwealth Youth Forum’s ­central theme Powering Our Common Future.

For too long, young people have been seen as solely the recipients of this work. Over the past few years, we have seen young people rise up and do amazing things.

Scotland’s Year of Young People is already showcasing their great ­talents, diversity and strengths of young people and how they are contributing to both their country and the wider world.

Engaging in two-way, dignified partnerships is a ­powerful way for both Scotland and Malawi’s younger generation to be an important part of their Commonwealth. We are ­moving forward with ­boldness and ensuring that the promises made to us will be carried through.

Personally, I am excited that I am about to begin a journey of empowerment and liberation; not only for myself, but for the fellow young ­people I meet and work with. My purpose is clear: to ensure that young women and girls live a healthy life free from violence and find a ­common future in the ­Commonwealth. Is this too ­ambitious? Only the decade of young people will decide.

Josephine Mpango is a Malawian ­student studying global health at the University of Edinburgh as a ­MasterCard Foundation Scholar. She attended the Commonwealth Heads of ­Government Meeting (CHOGM) in ­London in April as the Scotland ­Malawi Partnership’s Youth Ambassador.