From left to right: Akinyi Osanjo, LGBTQ+ rights researcher and Women Deliver Young Leader and Andrea Paola Hernández, writer and Women Deliver Young Leader

A Digital Future that is Co-Created by Young People is Crucial to Accelerating Progress on Gender Equality and Intersectional Justice.

For this year’s International Youth Day, Women Deliver Young Leaders Akinyi Osanjo of Kenya and Andrea Paola Hernández of Venezuela came together to share how young disruptors and social innovators are using digital spaces and technology to reinvent digital rights in order to increase accessibility and galvanize advocacy for gender equality.

Human rights and how they are expressed in the world change every time our society changes. Young people are always leading the way where disruption and change is born, so it is no surprise that they are also the ones reinventing and reimaging the world’s digital spaces to drive progress on gender equality. As we work together across generations to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, including by reexamining how systems and spaces can be rebuilt to support a more just, inclusive, and gender-equal future, digital spaces, and the conversations that they unlock, have become more important than ever.

The experiences of historically marginalized groups are frequently minimized and ignored due to discrimination and intersectional disadvantages. In some instances, the internet, though initially conceived as a plural and democratic place to exist and communicate, has led to the oppression of minority groups: due to censorship, limited accessibility, online harassment, and lack of data protection.

That said, in times of difficulty, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, young advocates have also been able to harness the power of the internet to connect and drive inclusive progress. For example, the pandemic gave rise to social media advocacy coalitions that organize gender-responsive and cross-movement convenings that strengthen girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive rights on digital safety and accessibility.

A digital future that is co-created by young people is crucial to accelerating progress on gender equality and intersectional justice. Below are a few of the key ways that young people are pushing for progress in digital spaces:

Harnessing Feminist Technology and Innovation. The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), under the theme, ‘Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality,’ launched a global 5-year action journey to accelerate gender equality by catalyzing collective action. By 2026, governments, women’s organizations, feminist and youth-led organizations, international organizations, and the private sector are aiming to cultivate a gender-equal world that invests in the development of inclusive, ethical, and community-driven digital spaces and accountability mechanisms. This includes by reducing harassment and other forms of online violence against women, as well as supporting women’s leadership. Throughout the GEF, decision makers spanning sectors and generations shared a deep recognition that real — and lasting — progress can only be achieved and sustained with the meaningful engagement and co-leadership of adolescents and young people — online and offline. Today, young people are coming together to build on the momentum of the GEF by calling for and creating the inclusive digital spaces needed for co-creation, co-learning, and the reduction of existing power imbalances.

Decolonizing Digital Rights. The Digital Freedom Fund, in partnership with European Digital Rights (EDRi), is aiming to dismantle the European digital rights field by addressing forms of oppression such as racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, and ableism. Through challenging the structural causes of oppression that underpin European digital experiences and addressing the root of intersectional issues, including a lack of representation, discrimination, inequity, and social injustice, they plan to start a decolonizing process to stop the amplification of existing forms of oppression online. Decolonizing digital rights is a necessary first step to ensure that all people — including young people, in all their intersecting identities — are able to meaningfully participate in the online conversations that impact how just, gender-equal systems and societies are formed.

Securing Feminist Frameworks in Digital Spaces. The Gulf Center for Human Rights recently launched an important online conversation asking ‘As feminists, what kind of internet do we want, and what will it take for us to achieve it?.’ This initiative, as well as others working to secure the use of feminist frameworks in the design and implementation of digital spaces are driving forward a powerful new vision for creating and sustaining gender-just societies — with youth at the helm. Securing the meaningful engagement and co-leadership of girls and young people, especially from discriminated groups, in the creation of tools to ensure safe, productive, and inclusive online experiences, is crucial to ensuring that digital spaces are designed in a way that unlocks progress for — and with — all people.

Today, we celebrate the young people who are creating the world they want to see by harnessing the power of feminist technology and innovation, decolonizing digital rights, and securing feminist frameworks in digital spaces to create a more just, gender-equal world.

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