Yesterday, at Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development in Berlin, over 60 young people under the age of 30 got together to talk ICPD. We discussed what ICPD means to young people, and how we can continue to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people through the ICPD. Some things we agreed:
- young people are affected most by health issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as deaths from unsafe abortion, unmet need for family planning, unintended pregnancies, HIV infection, etc.
- young people have a voice, an important voice, that must be heard and taken seriously by policy makers
- young people must have the right to have control over and to decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health free of coercion, discrimination, and violence
- youth-friendly health services and education are essential to improving the SRHR of the younger population
The group also created a statement with recommendations to policy makers. One piece that really stood out to me:
"Call for policy makers to... recognize that young people are entitled to all human rights and that we are a very diverse group with different backgrounds. We are young people; women, men, lesbians, gays, heterosexuals, transgender; in school, out of school, sex workers, married, divorced, single or in a relationship; we live with HIV and AIDS; we are disabled; we are migrants, refugees, displaced, trafficked; we have different perceptions of the world around us; we use different media and social networks to communicate globally. Therefore, programs targeting us should acknowledge and respect our diversity by conducting research, collecting disaggregated data by age, sex/gender, and eliminate the existing policies that discriminate against us."
All too often NGOs, policy makers, and others think about "youth" as a single entity. But we are different. You cannot lump us into one category with the same exact needs and wants, with the same thoughts, with the same fears. Just as you cannot talk about "adults" and expect to represent the differences among them.
As a group, we discussed many problems and challenges we face in each region of the world. We also discussed the need to be able to communicate and the messages of ICPD in language that makes sense to young people. An interesting question: Is the term "family planning" youth-appropriate? When most young people are having sex, it is not to plan a family, so does that term really resonate? Is there something that can better explain this need?