RET International has a strong central message that we repeat whenever we have the opportunity: Young people matter and should not be abandoned by the international community during crises, especially as fragile environments tend to make them more vulnerable. Through “education”, no matter formal or non-formal, they can be protected and become positive actors of change in their communities. Often, the international community gives intellectual support to this more recently accepted and shared vision. However, the financial support is lacking or lagging, as priority is given in budgets to food, water, shelter and to young children. Nearly always, there is no budget left for “youth”.
The second message we, at RET, have championed consistently is that young women matter, but continue to be short-changed in benefits. Young women face additional challenges to those of young men, as they carry the responsibility of family care, maintenance of the “household” and cultural obligations, all made even more critical during crises and in fragile environments. This forces many young women to become more vulnerable and remain out of reach of benefits they deserve and need. During crises, such benefits can truly be life-saving to these young women.
While our message on youth faces the barrier of not being prioritized as part of the mainstream in humanitarian action, the message on young women is ironically faced with the opposite burden. Gender programming is so conspicuous among the humanitarian community that it has become white noise in the background, always present, but often tuned out as a life-saving and critical priority. Like all fundamental truths, it needs to be put back in the spotlight regularly, until the day it no longer holds true on the ground.
At RET International we sum it up as such: For half of young people in crises and fragile environments, the long and difficult road to recovery and development is made even harder simply by their gender.
This is an uncomfortably unifying observation. Differences in nationality, culture, language, religion or skin colour do not change the fact that on average young women and girls will be more vulnerable than their male counterparts during emergencies. This is a global reality, a widespread ethical struggle and a common challenge.
We are, all, citizens of the world through humanity’s beauty and achievements, but also through its shared mistakes.
In this newsletter we return to this fundamental truth to explain it, to illustrate it and to share ideas on how to change it. For RET, there is no humanitarian intervention without the active participation of half of the world’s population – young women must share equally in the spotlight.
This edition contains stories of the young women and communities RET serves. Some are sad, some are hopeful, while others offer explanations or solutions, but above all, these articles are a reminder of why it is not only essential, but life-saving for young women to have access to “education” of any and all kinds.