I Am Stronger Today: Youth 4 Impact and Gender Equality in the MENA Region

MENA Region – 28 March 2024

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, female youth are more than twice as likely to be not engaged in education, employment, or training compared to their male counterparts, according to UNICEF. Additionally, they are among the highest risk groups for gender-based violence (GBV) globally, facing threats such as sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and gender-related killings. This disparity is exacerbated by ongoing armed conflicts, legal shortcomings, and deep-rooted patriarchal norms. Empowering female youth and girls is crucial focus area of the UNODC Regional “Youth 4 Impact” Programme’s interventions.

"Youth 4 Impact", supported by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), is a regional programme that works to empower

youth and build their resilience against drugs, violence, and crime. It operates in Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, and Sudan, and is employing a variety of interventions targeting the empowerment of female youth and gender equality, including through sports activities, awareness-raising sessions, educational games, and promoting them as agents of change.

Sport is a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance, and respect. It enhances youths’ physical, emotional, and social skills, boosting self-esteem, and teamwork. It provides safe spaces for girls, fostering female mentorships and leadership, thereby increasing women’s visibility in sports and beyond, challenging stereotypes, and transforming gender roles to combat discrimination and violence.

Stopping GBV, one kick at a time – Football Tournament for Girls in Algeria:

A football tournament was organized by UNODC as part of “Youth 4 Impact” in Algeria for female athletes as part of the “16 Days of Activism” campaign against violence against women and girls. Playing football, traditionally considered a male sport, could mean more for young women as they challenge gender norms, discover their strength and resilience, and become more empowered to advocate for themselves. The event included a session on gender-based violence for the participants, with the presence of the Ministry of Youth and Sport, thereby including policymakers in GBV discussions.

“Line Up, Live Up” for Gender Equality and Anti-Corruption in Lebanon:

"Now, I can engage in community activities and play there an important role without fear " – says Soumaya Hakawaty, a 15 year old girl, who participated in the “Line Up! Live Up!” activity in Lebanon.

The UNODC's "Line Up, Live Up" training programme is also utilizing sports to raise awareness of gender equality and promote life skills among youth. Specifically, it helps young people understand how gender roles, norms, and attitudes that fail to promote equality can lead to disrespect and violence, particularly against girls and women. Girls are encouraged to take control of their lives and health and to seek support when facing violence. Boys and girls together learn the importance of collaboration in promoting gender equality and becoming ambassadors for change within their communities. Through the UNODC "Line Up, Live Up" curriculum, 346 female trainers and 8 female master trainers have been certified and 9 are in the certification process, benefiting 9,569 girls in participating in the "Youth 4 Impact" regional programme countries.

The “Line Up! Live Up!” Programme can be easily adapted to different needs and contexts. For example, in Lebanon, UNODC provided customized interactive sessions for civil society professionals working with youth, focusing on gender and women’s empowerment through sports and anti-corruption efforts. These sessions included "Line Up, Live Up" activities and addressed anti-corruption through the UNODC "Play for Integrity" game, which teaches students critical thinking, teamwork, social responsibility, and awareness of their rights. Professionals gained new strategies for engaging youth through sports while employing innovative and practical tools to tackle corruption and gender issues, preparing them to further implement these approaches with youth.

The "Youth 4 Impact" regional programme has significantly impacted and positively influenced 27,547 women, including 11,107 young women and girls. The programme's interventions are centered around three main outcomes: enhancing the legal, policy, and institutional frameworks for preventing drug use and crime among youth; strengthening the response of sectoral systems and institutions to the needs of vulnerable and at-risk youth and families; and empowering youth to become more resilient, rehabilitated, and reintegrated. UNODC is grateful to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) for generous support.

For more information:

Youth 4 Impact 2023 Achievements Report

YouTube: Football match for female athletes