Blog by Kristin Gutekunst. Originally posted on UN Women’s Website.
After thousands of kilometres of dirt roads, small mountain paths, jungle trails and deserts, through 20 countries on two continents, UN Youth Delegate Jilt Van Schayik and Teun Meulepas arrived to Cape Town, South Africa! Throughout this six-month cycling odyssey from Amsterdam to Cape Town, aimed at hearing what people – and youth in particular – have to say about the development of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through MY World, Humans of MY World, HeforShe Campaign, and Building Bridges Youth consultations. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille attended a ceremony to mark the end of their journey on 12 August, International Youth Day.
Jilt and his friend Teun founded the cycling project Building Bridges to focus on learning about, and broadcasting, the priorities of young women and men at a grass-roots level. Building Bridges received logistical and networking support from , UN Women, UN DESA, the Youth Focal Point’s Office, the Dutch Embassies, UN Information Centres, and the UN Millennium Campaign and its partners in the countries they visited.
On 8 August, the Building Bridges South Africa team, the Dutch Consul of Cape Town, local media and their own families welcomed the cyclists. The arrival was scheduled just in time to celebrate National Women’s Day in South Africa on 9 August, when the Building Bridges South Africa team co-organized a Woman’s Humanity Walk, bringing together female leaders from different faiths for an interfaith blessing and celebration of women. Speakers praised the inner strength and resilience of women and commemorated those who had fought so hard for gender equality. Following the ceremony, the Building Bridges team visited a community centre, where a ceremony was held for homeless women, listening to their specific priorities and stories.
A youth forum was organized on 10 August at the University of Cape Town. Youth spoke about gender issues and shared poetry and songs about women in open sessions. Young South Africans discussed the specific challenges they face in the cross-section of race, class and gender. Echoing many youth the cyclists met across Africa, many attending the forum noted that education, protection against crime and violence, better job opportunities and better healthcare were also among the most important development challenges.