12 October 2023Tags: #EmbraceOurRights, #GenerationGender, #PowerToYouth, #RightHereRightNow, Advocacy, Heart of the Matter, ICPD30, Meaningful and inclusive youth participation, MIYP, Shadow Report, Young People, Youth SRHR
Embrace the reality of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights today! That’s the powerful message behind The Heart of the Matter, the ICPD+30 shadow report launched at Women Deliver in Kigali. This all-encompassing document echoes the voices of young activists from around the world. For World Youth Day, we asked five young SRHR advocates to share what the report’s message means to them and how it can help their work. Meet Aastha, Weston, Ana, Jim and Rey.
Why is now the time for governments and policymakers to embrace the reality of young people’s SRHR?
Aastha: “For too long, young people’s SRHR has remained a negotiable subject for governments and policymakers and a taboo subject to many. We often hear discussions and plans, but the actions have not fully addressed young people’s SRHR needs. The outreach of comprehensive sexual education (CSE) remains significantly low, while the unmet need of modern methods of contraception, unsafe abortion, and child marriage among young individuals remains high. Neglecting young people’s SRHR means neglecting the needs of billions of the world’s population. It is crucial to prioritise their well-being and considering the long-term impact.”
“Young people have unique needs. They also have innovative solutions to fulfil these needs. Embracing the realities of young people in all diversities and their unique needs, along with keeping them at the forefront to identify and implement the solutions, is the need of the time.”
Weston: “There are 1.8 billion adolescents globally, and in Sub-Saharan Africa over 70% percent of them are under the age of 30. Ignoring their SRHR needs can have far-reaching consequences. Investing in young people has great potential to yield social and economic benefits. When young people plan their lives, it leads to reduced poverty rates, increased productivity, and improved economic growth for societies.”
“Governments will have the opportunity to harness young people’s energy and innovations in decision-making around SRHR. This will ensure that the solutions put forth are responsive to the needs and realities of young people
What is the heart of the matter in your country when it comes to improving SRHR for young people?
Ana: “Currently, in many countries in our region, young people are criminalised and our lives are endangered due to lack of legal frameworks that safeguard and guarantee our SRHR. Therefore, we demand better evidence to recognise the voice of all these women, to visualise the exclusion we are dealing with and to improve the SRHR policies and services that we deserve as young people to achieve our physical, political and economic autonomy.”
“The heart of the matter when it comes to improving SRHR for young people in Latin America and the Caribbean is all about freedom and the right to life.
Jim: “In the Netherlands, we face the challenge of pushback, polarisation, and aggression. Recent incidents, such as the attack on drag queen Envy Peru and hate comments and death threats towards the first trans woman winning Miss Netherlands, highlight the urgent need to address this aggression and ensure a society where all individuals are respected, valued and free to be who they are.”
“Pushback against comprehensive sexuality education highlights the need for progress. Overcoming such opposition is essential to create an inclusive environment where young people’s SRHR are fully realised and protected.”
Rey: “The heart of the matter in Indonesia, regarding improving SRHR for young people, lies in effectively addressing the issue of child marriage. Child marriage significantly undermines the SRHR of young individuals, giving rise to numerous challenges. Early pregnancies resulting from child marriages pose grave health risks, such as maternal and infant mortality, while also hindering educational opportunities for young girls.”
What would you say to other young people dealing with similar SRHR challenges?
Rey: “It is important to recognise and assert your right to make informed decisions about your bodies and reproductive health. It is vital to know that you have the right to live free from sexual and gender-based violence. Empower yourself by actively seeking knowledge from reliable sources, cultivating supportive networks, and advocating for comprehensive sexuality education.”
“Your voice is powerful, so use it to raise awareness, engage with decision-makers, and demand the realisation of your rights. Remember, you are never alone in this journey, and through these actions, you can create a meaningful impact and pave the way for a brighter future for SRHR in your communities”
Weston: “Advocate for change! Young people should raise their voice and advocate for improved SRHR policies, interventions, and services. Build supportive networks within your community and seek allies who are passionate about SRHR. Engaging in collective action can create meaningful change in addressing SRHR challenges in our communities.”
They are not alone in their fight for their rights. It is crucial to connect with like-minded institutions and gain support to improve the SRHR of young people.
What’s the importance of this report and what message do you bring back to your own government or policymakers?
Jim: “This report sheds light on the critical gaps between global commitments and the tangible impact on the lives of young people where it truly matters.. We mustn’t take any progress for granted. I bring back a resounding message from young people worldwide, urging my government and policymakers to prioritise their voices.”
Aastha: “For youth organisations like ours and youth SRHR activists such as ourselves, this report serves as a guiding document for sustained advocacy efforts and actions. The recommendations provided in this report serve as guiding principles for future actions and progress. I want to encourage and urge our government to embrace the lived realities of young people and wholeheartedly commit to bringing sustained changes in our country.”
Ana: “This report is a powerful tool for evidence-based advocacy for the youth feminist movement. It also positions the importance of regional agreements, such as the Montevideo Consensus, and points out the gaps resulting from non-implementation by governments and policy makers and setbacks in legal frameworks at the national level.”
How are you embracing our rights and what would you like to do now you’ve read this report?
Rey: “Armed with the valuable insights from this report, I will engage with government officials, emphasising the importance of prioritising youth-friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education.”
My ultimate goal is to contribute to a society where every person can confidently exercise their rights, live without fear, and flourish in an inclusive and empowering environment.
Weston: “I will take advantage of the platforms where I represent young people at national and global levels and share this report within my networks. The Heart of the Matter will serve as a starting point to agree on areas of action and to hold those in power accountable. I will emphasise the need for urgent action, particularly in advocating for the inclusion of youth perspectives in decision-making processes, especially in the implementation of the ICPD commitments.”
Jim is youth ambassador for sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and bodily autonomy at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CHOICE, consortium member of the Right Here Right Now programme.
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