Building capacity for youth advocacy: PMNCH AYC members share learnings at 8th Africa SHR Conference
12-16 February 2018 | Johannesburg, South Africa
The 8th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) was hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa from 12 to 16 February 2018, under the theme Advancing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Africa. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) supported its Adolescent and Youth Constituency (AYC) representatives at the conference, part of a sustained process of building and fostering regional dialogue on sexual and reproductive health and rights that leads to concrete actions and enhances the ability of stakeholders to influence policy and programming for a sexually healthy Africa.
The ACSRH began with a two-day Youth Pre-conference, uniting young leaders and champions of SRHR networks from across the African continent. The pre-conference served as a good base to guide young people and help sharpen their skills in gathering insights and perspectives on SRHR. Young people took part in discussion on capitalising on the youth bulge and investing in young people through meaningful presentations, reports and conversations on the demographic dividend, especially as it regards the African Union 2017 theme on "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth".
Mary Josephine, Kenya said, "We have policies that need review so as to accommodate current happenings. Young people urge policy makers to consult them when formulating policies that affect them. Focus should be well rounded and extend beyond urban populations to involve those at the grassroots and the most vulnerable."
The PMNCH Adolescent and Youth Constituency held a breakaway session at the preconference, inviting over 30 young leaders and development partners from various African countries. Tikhala Itaye, AYC Board Member provided some background on the work of PMNCH and the Adolescent and Youth Constituency. Zanele Mabaso, AYC Country Engagement Coordinator, introduced participants to the Advocating for Change for Adolescents! Toolkit, providing an overview of its content as well as ways in which the toolkit can be used to advocate for improved adolescent health and well-being in their countries. Ms Mabaso led the audience in an interactive exercise that sparked dialogue on how young people can apply the global toolkit to not only hold their governments accountable on delivering on adolescent and youth health and wellbeing commitments and targets in their countries, but to also consult adolescents, in their communities, on issues and barriers they experience in accessing SRH services and facilities. Young leaders also shared best practises on reviewing existing policies programmes and initiatives; making recommendations to their governments to ensure effective advocacy in advancing and improving adolescent health and well-being, as well as their success in uniting young people and working towards creating meaningful changes in SRHR in their countries and for adolescents, everywhere.
We are currently adapting the adolescent toolkit with advocacy concerns for disaggregated data on adolescent health and well-being. Young people are engaging with government officials and other agencies, to cause meaningful accountability on adolescents and young people’s health issues. Moreover, we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure Comprehensive Sexuality Education s taught in all secondary schools in Cameroon”, said Desmond Nji, Cameroon.
The Advocating for Change for Adolescents Toolkit! is currently being implemented and rolled out by youth led and youth serving organisations in five countries, namely; India, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya and Cameroon. Two of the five country partners, Desmond Nji, and Mary Josephine who have been rolling out their domesticated versions of the toolkit in country, led the session and shared country national advocacy roadmaps as well as milestones and activities. The presentation also illustrated with practical examples, the process of introducing and implementing the toolkit in their countries, and collaborating with their governments and civil society partners to achieve the goals and objectives of their national advocacy roadmaps.
Mary Josephine concluded, "We not only need to educate on sexual rights but also on sexual responsibilities and total wellbeing (including mental health). The adolescents need practical lessons that can be part of the school curriculum. When implementing the toolkit let's also capacity build the parents, guardians and the entire community. They play a big role in influencing the decisions made by adolescents and young people."