by: Danielle Nierenberg, Worldwatch Institute
The Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project is collaborating with Women Deliver to highlight the important role of women, youth, and sexual and reproductive health and rights in sustainable development at the upcoming Rio+20 conference.
As the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, rapidly approaches, organizations from around the world are pushing for issues related to youth and reproductive rights to be prioritized within the sustainable development agenda. The Youth Coalition is an organization of young activists from around the world who bring attention to the sexual and reproductive rights of youth locally and globally. Representatives from the Youth Coalition will be at Rio+20 to inform governments about the connections between sustainable development and sexual rights.
Ivens Reis Reyner, a 22-year-old activist from Brazil who is passionate about these issues, is one of the Youth Coalition’s worldwide members.
What motivated you to get involved with the Youth Coalition and what is your role within the organization?
I started getting involved with sexual and reproductive rights as an activist when I was just twelve years old. This motivated me to join the Youth Coalition. I applied and have been working with the organization for four years now doing workshops and conferences. Rio has been an important starting point for discussions on the rights-based approach. I think including young people from the [Global] South as part of the discussion is important because the needs of people from the North are totally different. Not enough people from the [Global] South are attending Rio+20, mostly due to financial and language barriers. I think it’s crucial to have their participation in these discussions.
Why should development initiatives focus on youth?
There are seven billion people in the world, and 1.8 billion are young people. This is a huge number and can be a very useful power for change. Talking about development cannot deny the participation of young people. They will soon be working and can create new ideas and new ways of seeing things. This is crucial from a long-term perspective when dealing with development and sexual and reproductive rights.
Why do you think sexual and reproductive rights should be on the agenda for Rio+20?
Sustainable development isn’t just reducing gases and deforestation. What is also important is having a human rights perspective. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. When I, as a young person, have access to this type of information and to health services, it will allow me to make better decisions, concentrate on my studies, and have a healthier life. This will bring better development in our cities and our homes.
What youth-centered activities and events will be taking place at Rio+20?
We will be holding a Youth Blast from June 7 – 12, which is an international event for young people under 30. I will be facilitating a workshop on sexual and reproductive rights and will be partnering with Sustain US. Another session will be on gender issues and sustainable development. These two sessions will be just for young people. Then on the 19th, we will be having an event on sustainable development and sexual and reproductive rights which is open to everyone.
How would you recommend youth get involved if they are interested in these issues?
First, youth should get informed. They should read everything they can about the issues and what will be happening at Rio. They can also write something. Participating in online platforms is especially important. The Rio+20 website has a dialogue online where everyone can participate. Then, at Rio, they should participate in the Youth Blast and the People’s Summit.
To read more about the relationship among youth, reproductive rights, and sustainable development and get involved in the discussion about Rio+20, see Get G.R.E.E.N!, Rio+20 Dialogues: Vote for the Future You Want, @ Rio+20: Messages of the World, Sustain US, and UN CSD – Major Group for Children and Youth.