BUILDING BRIDGES: Commonwealth Fellowship and leadership development for young women

CYEC’s Building Bridges Young Women Leaders’ Fellowship was a youth-led project that took place in the UK in June 2012. Inspired by the Commonwealth theme of ‘Women as Agents of Change’, Building Bridges was an innovative and unique opportunity for 20 young women leaders from different regions of the Commonwealth, who had a demonstrated interest in serving as ‘agents of change’ in their organisations and communities, to share experiences, learn from each other and work together towards the common objective of improving the voice of young women. It aimed to build capacity in the areas of youth and gender mainstreaming, enhance the leadership skills of young women from civil society organisations, and provide a platform for participants to develop and action an advocacy agenda.

The Building Bridges initiative was one of only six projects that received a Commonwealth Foundation special grant to mark the Commonwealth Year of Women as Agents of Change. The project was collaborative and strategic, and engaged a range of Commonwealth Associations, civil society and young women’s organisations, as well as the Social Transformation/Gender and Youth Departments at the Commonwealth Secretariat. It has established a dialogue for young women leaders from youth, civil society and national structures and has set the stage for further initiatives.


The Building Bridges project was based on the contention that young women are not sufficiently engaged, and are therefore inadequately represented, in existing Commonwealth and global youth and women’s structures. Relatively limited Commonwealth attention has been paid specifically to the interests of young women, although the youth and gender policy areas have gained considerable traction in the Commonwealth, albeit separately. The ‘Building Bridges’ project was designed to make a contribution to improving the effectiveness of both youth and gender policy initiatives by providing a forum for young women to voice their desire for better representation and an opportunity for them, in collaboration with civil society and policy makers, to identify ways to capture missed opportunities for synergy between youth and gender policy approaches.

During the fellowship, young women worked together to celebrate progress and achievements, and develop ideas and solutions to some of the challenges they identified that face young women in the regions of the Commonwealth. The Statement of Recommendations records their vision and analysis, as a contribution towards influencing discussion and policy across the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in the run-up to the next Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting (Bangladesh 2013), Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (Papua New Guinea, April 2013), Commonwealth Youth Forum and Commonwealth People’s Forum (Sri Lanka, November 2013).

The Statement of Recommendations for Priority Action can be found here.

‘The Building Bridges Fellowship Programme provided a platform for young women to discuss issues and problems that specific regions in the Commonwealth face, and identify similarities and differences and gain a fresh perspective.’

‘Building Bridges was a unique opportunity to build our leadership skills and share lessons from our work through various discussions and activities. The programme brought together a diverse group of young women, but we soon learned that we shared many common experiences and dreams’.

We are grateful to acknowledge the financial support of:

Commonwealth Foundation
British Airways
British Council


Commonwealth Secretariat

Attached files

CYEC 'Building Bridges' 2012.pdf1.33 MB