Friday, April 24

Don’t Ignore the Voices of Young People on SRHR in the Post-2015 Agenda

We cannot continue to talk about sustainable development without considering the needs and aspirations of girls, youth and women who constitute over 65% of the worlds population.

From April 12 to 17 of this year, I attended the 48th session of the Commission on population and Development(CPD48) at the United Nations' New York headquarters, New York. 

It was a week of rich discussions and deliberations around fundamental issues like promoting gender equality, youth empowerment, peace, education, security, health, environment, global partnership and sustainable development, and among others. 

I had the opportunity to meet and interact with heads of delegations and governments and together we exchanged views as well as looked at
key issues affecting girls, women and youth and their lives, especially when it comes to ensuring their access to accurate and quality information, services and education that will allow them to make responsible decisions and informed choices on their health specifically and their future as a whole. 

On April 17, The Permanent Mission of Zambia to the United Nations, Aids Accountability International (AAI) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) hosted an African Youth Task Force Initiative panel on “Realising the Future We Want:The State of African Youth in which I had the privileged of speaking on the panel and talk about my work at the grassroots with young people and how this has helped popularize SDGs, the post-2015 process in Cameroon as well as garner governments support around key priorities.  

Additionally, key highlights on the presentation included the recent activity I organised - an Intergenerational dialogue on a youth friendly post2015, action2015 nation campaign, local / national advocacy and mobilisation of an inclusive post2015 agenda.  

I also highlighted the importance of development vision and actions taking into consideration women and youth rights and involving them in creating and delivering the agenda.

As I reflect on my experiences at CPD48, I recall one panelist's words. where he said:"Though SRHR is just an acronym, the message is simple! it means having basic rights over your own body."

Unlike the panelist's view, some member states, especially from Africa dubbed Africa Group were constantly in opposition to defending human rights especially sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The African Group which supposedly is an Africa States Coalition was speaking not within national capacities and / or in line with most African countries progressive policies. The influence from the African group impede individual African nations from speaking into their national capacities.  

The African Group is supposedly an Africa States Coalition that often speaks for Africa / africans. In as much a coalition movement can bring development, so too can it impede development. It is worth noting that the Africa group does not speak in any countrys national capacity. Often its opinions does not align with most African countries progressive policies. Their influence however prevents individual African nations from speaking on their own behalf.

The group also overlooks progressive views on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and also waters down regional agreements like the Addis Declaration (2013), Maputo Protocol and other regional treaties and national frameworks that promotes human rights language, including the respect and protection of individual sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

What saddens me is the fact that Africa group continue to ignores and rejects languages on SRHR, when over 39 000 of girls as young as 9, 12 and / or 14year-old, majority from Africa have their SRHR deprived and denied through forced, early marriages, and / or trafficked into sex slavery and child labor. 

In Cameroon, an estimated 53% of women have experienced some form of violence before reaching 18 years. Also by age 18, 25.2% are either pregnant or already mothers.Adolescent girls account for at least 90% of unsafe abortion each year and this remains the leading cause to increasing maternal mortality in Cameroon. 61% of women of reproductive age have unmet need for contraceptives and a range of modern methods (The 2004 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS))

These statistics reveal actual reality/ conditions on the ground. They show that young people are leading in new cases of HIV/AIDS, disease, unemployment, and insecurity. Women of all ages are incapable of exercising and enjoying SRHR."

Yet, there is so much political talk on building a sustainable future!

It is therefore imperative that in designing the future that we want, the rights of women and young people must be prioritized at local, regional, national, and global levels, and special emphasis must be put on sexual rights and reproductive health and rights.

Let's not make the same mistake of 2000!

Further Information 

Thanks to the generous contribution of Mandela Washington Fellowship Speaker Travel Grant program supported by USAID - US Agency for International Developmentand IREX.