Zoleka Mandela calls for global focus on adolescence at Women Deliver 2019
Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador Zoleka Mandela (pictured above) joined heads of state, international agencies and high-profile global campaigners at Women Deliver 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, the leading international conference on gender equality and sustainable development.
Zoleka Mandela was campaigning for a global adolescent summit which would aim to increase funding and political commitment to combat the major health burdens on young people, including road traffic injury.
She spoke at the closing plenary of the conference alongside established campaigners such as #Metoo founder Tarana Burke and Times Up legal defence lead Tina Tchen, as well as Women Deliver Young Leaders.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the world's largest conference on gender equality women’s health and rights, alongside the Presidents of Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia, to an audience of over 6,000 delegates representing 160 countries.
Speaking at the plenary session hosted by Washington Post columnist Barkha Dutt, Zoleka Mandela shared the memories and wisdom of her grandfather, Nelson Mandela. She shared her personal story of loss, when her daughter was killed in a road crash by a drunk driver, and described how it was her grandfather’s words which helped her find hope and purpose in her global campaigning on road safety. Rallying the audience to never give up hope, no matter how impossible the cause may seem, she encouraged delegates to collaborate and align campaigns to build successful movements. Highlighting her work with the Child Health Initiative, which is convening a growing coalition of international agencies to catalyse action on neglected adolescent health issues, she said:
“From your own personal pain can come great strength. This is the lesson for the campaigns to come, and our campaigning now. This is our approach in campaigning on adolescent health. Joining forces of those fighting on sexual health and rights, on ending violence and bringing everyone together to combat the biggest killers of young people including issues like road traffic injury.
“Along with the other major health burdens, road traffic injury is entirely preventable and we need to see far greater global commitment and funding from governments and donors.”
Of the $35 billion invested annually in global development assistance for health, just 1.6% is spent on promoting the health and wellbeing of adolescents. In low- and middle-income countries, where adolescents can make up to 60% of the population, still less than 2% of national health budgets is spent on this age group. With such a gap between financing and need, 3,000 adolescents are dying every day from preventable causes. To address the dearth of investment for this age group, the Child Health Initiative, coordinated by the FIA Foundation, is calling for a global adolescent summit.
Youth campaigners made up 20% of the delegation at Women Deliver, and played a central role in debates on youth participation, sexual reproductive health rights and gender based violence. Many Women Deliver Young Leaders are already pioneering creative new projects to shift the needle on gender equality and rights.
Young people must be active and vocal stakeholders within any movement to shape adolescent health policy and inform investment priorities. A Young Leaders panel was hosted by Zoleka Mandela and speakers Olaoluwa Abagu, Pooja Kapahi, Maram Barakat, Riki Hasan and Kinga Wisniewska shared their campaigning success stories before joining the call for global action on adolescent health.
On the Child Health Initiative joining Women Deliver, FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman said: “This is the first time we have brought the adolescent health agenda to this huge global conference on the rights of women and girls. It was another important step in ensuring that road traffic injury is recognised and acted upon as a major global health burden affecting young people. And it is critical that investment and action are scaled up to prevent 3,000 young lives being lost every day, to road traffic injury, violence, self-harm and other preventable causes. We have heard young campaigners from all over the world demand that their governments are held accountable. With Young Leaders and international agencies, we are pioneering a new collaboration to call for a global adolescent summit, to drive investment in the health and wellbeing of young people.”