How Five Young Leaders are Applying Creativity and Innovation to Advance Gender Equality
Young people are uniquely positioned to address the greatest challenges of our time, from gender inequality to climate change, and now COVID-19. As we mark World Creativity and Innovation Day on 21 April — a day to commemorate the importance of creativity and innovation in problem solving — we celebrate the power of young people who are using new means of thinking to build a healthier, more equitable world. Here’s a look at some of the remarkable ways Women Deliver Young Leaders are advocating for girls’ and women’s health and rights across the globe:
LucyBot creator Nick Oketch discusses his innovation at the Women Deliver 2019
Conference in Vancouver, Canada.
Nick Oketch, developer of Lucy Bot
Growing up in rural Kenya, Nick Oketch, 31, saw the lack of access to information as one of the main barriers to young people realizing their sexual and reproductive health. “There’s an information gap that makes young people really vulnerable,” Nick said, and it prevents them from exercising their rights or reaching their full potential. In Siaya County, where Nick works, tens of thousands of girls become pregnant as teenagers each year, causing them to drop out of school or enter into early marriages.
To combat this problem, Nick developed LucyBot, a Facebook Messenger chat bot where young people can safely ask questions about sexual and reproductive health without fear of stigma and discrimination. LucyBot, which received financial and technical support from Women Deliver, connects young people to medical health providers and vital resources such as contraceptives at nearby hospitals. Nick’s innovative efforts have helped 15,000 young people — and counting — gain access to powerful information about their health and rights.
Barbara Da Silva Paes helped create Mapa Aborto Legal, an interactive website that maps
abortion services in Brazil.
Barbara Da Silva Paes, co-creator of Mapa Aborto Legal
In Brazil, abortion remains highly restricted and is only permitted to save the pregnant woman’s life or performed in the case of rape, incest, or other rare exceptions. In these instances, many women don't know their rights or lack access to reliable information regarding abortion services. That’s where 27-year-old Barbara’s innovative work on Mapa Aborto Legal comes in. After surveying Brazil’s major cities on which hospitals provide abortions, Barbara helped build a website with centralized information on where to access reproductive rights and resources within the country. This was part of an initiative by Article 19, an international organization that promotes freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide. The website relies on crowdsourcing to include additional providers as they become available.
Barbara hopes this project can push officials to better inform Brazilian women of their rights. “The government needs to go a step further and make an active, conscious, and intentional decision to share information with women who need it,” she said. For her, access to information is key to achieving gender equality. Barbara emphasizes the importance of sharing relevant information with other young people, “so that we can all be equipped to build a world that we'd like to see.”
Jasmine George founded Hidden Pockets Collective to make sexual health services more accessible
to young people in India.
Jasmine George, Hidden Pockets Collective cartographer
Like Barbara, Jasmine saw that girls and women lacked access to the essential information they needed about reproductive rights and safe spaces available to them. Through her work with her organization Hidden Pockets Collective, Jasmine mapped sexual health services and resources across seven Indian cities. The map focuses on health services used by young people, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and women living with HIV who are looking for sound, reliable, and accurate information. Through this pilot, Jasmine has helped other young people make informed decisions about their bodies without fear of shame or stigma.
Her creative cartography boasts another valuable feature called “pleasure pockets.” These are places, such as parks or markets, where women can feel safe, comfortable, and secure. By making these spaces known, girls and women can feel confident about going outside and exploring their own cities. In 2018, Women Deliver spoke to Jasmine, who said that “young people want to see policies that recognize and treat them as a whole person.” She added that she wants “other young advocates to recognize that it is important to raise the voices of your own communities to the forefront. This has its own power and magic.”
Deneka Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago performs a poem during
CSW 2019 in New York.
Deneka Thomas, poet and founder of On-Word Creative
Often referred to as “small axe cut down a big tree” by peers, Deneka Thomas identifies as a small poet with big messages on women’s empowerment, violent extremism, and environmental awareness. This year, the 27-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago joined other poets in the 2 Cents Movement for a poetry tour. They plan to reach 10,000 students to collaborate on creating safe/brave space gender policy manuals in schools across five Caribbean countries.
Deneka is also the founder of On-Word Creative, an organization combining film and spoken word poetry as tools for advocacy and activism. Through On-Word, Deneka creates short narrative films and documentaries addressing gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and LGBTQIA+ concerns.
‘Artivist’ Rand Jarallah of Palestine speaks about the power of art at the
Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Canada.
Rand Jarallah, artivist
Rand Jarallah from Palestine describes herself as a “passionate artivist” (a combination of artist + activist) who tells stories about human rights through art, performance, and makeup. While makeup may seem like an unusual tool for advocacy, 28-year-old Rand chose the medium precisely for the juxtaposition between how beauty products are advertised and the powerful ways they can be used. “Makeup is perceived as a dis-empowering machine to women because it’s marketed as a way to conform to society’s standards and to cover up our so-called insecurities,” Rand says on her website. Nevertheless, she aims to break these stereotypes and create art that encourages discussion of sensitive issues like child marriage, menstruation, and the #MeToo movement.
Rand has also used her talents to draw attention to the issues faced by refugees and the unique challenges women face in these contexts. In addition to her innovative use of makeup, Rand creatively applies sound in Take Refuge, an exhibition raising awareness about the plight of forcibly displaced persons. Rand describes Take Refuge as a self-care campaign where listeners are instructed to tune into relaxing sounds. However, listeners learn in the end that these recordings were captured in areas that refugees and asylum seekers have navigated on their way to the UK. The goal is to “call attention to our privilege,” empathize with the struggles of refugee women and men, and reflect more deeply on our collective wellbeing.