By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver
As Uganda’s first annual National Conference on Family Planning (July 28-30) drew to a close, the presence and impact of the country’s young people was clear. With nearly 80% of Uganda’s population under the age of 30, it is a demographic group that the country cannot afford to leave behind any longer.
Youth activists started their hard work before the conference, with a two-day workshop on July 23 and 24 organized by It Takes Two and UNFPA Uganda. Under the theme of making universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services a reality for young people, the pre-conference’s nearly 100 participants were able to network with their peers, learn about their government’s commitments to SRH and youth, and strengthen their advocacy and communications skills. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, UNFPA Uganda, and PPD-ARO were all present to share how they are committed to helping Uganda’s young people realize their SRH.
As the pre-conference progressed, key demands stood out and were drafted into a communique. Two young people, one male and one female, were invited to read the set of demands at the conference, in front of the parliamentarians, development organizations, and donors in attendance. The communique called on the Ugandan government to:
- Renew commitment and accelerate implementation of the Abuja Declaration on allocating 15% of national budgets on health, with specific emphasis on increased investment and funding towards SRH programming for all young people.
- Strengthen youth engagement and participation in national health budget planning, implementation, tracking, and performance evaluation, including setting aside resources to build the capacity of youth to participate in decision and policymaking.
- Revamp/scale up/integrate a skills-based, gender-sensitive, disability-friendly, and quality comprehensive and age-appropriate sexuality education for both in- and out-of-school youth.
- Accelerate the formulation, design, harmonization, and implementation of national policies, laws, regulations, guidelines, strategies, projects, and programs to promote and accelerate the provision of adolescent and youth friendly SRH services in Uganda in line with the African continental SRHR strategy, the Maputo Plan of Action and the African Youth Charter.
- Increase access to contraceptives and other reproductive health services through innovations like mobile clinics and make facilities friendly for all youth, including young people with disabilities by training service providers in sign language.
In total, 50 youth advocates from the pre-conference were given a scholarship to attend the national conference, while all were invited to join the Youth Zone outside of the conference hall – a space for dancing, games, and discussions about family planning. UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin also acknowledged the young people, joining PPD-ARO’s Dr. Jotham Musinguzi and State Minister for Primary Care Hon. Sarah Opendi for a question and answer session during the conference.
The conference was a great step in pushing the needs, desires, and demands of young people into the public sphere. One young woman’s passionate question on how she can expect the government to meet her demand and right for comprehensive SRHR information and services was met with the loudest cheers of the day. Another young woman mentioned that it was “inspiring” to “finally” have the needs of the young people addressed on a national level.
Women Deliver joins her in her sentiment. The youth engagement and excitement at the conference was not only incredible, but contagious. When given the opportunity to participate, they are a group that refuses to be left out of the discussion. Determined to hold their government accountable to its promises of universal and youth-friendly SRH information and services, including family planning, Uganda’s young people are eager to have their demands heard as well as be involved in the solution.
Read a summary of the report "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: Accelerating socioeconomic transformation in Uganda," that was launched at the conference.
See more from the youth pre-conference and Uganda’s National Conference on Family Planning by checking out #YouthFPUg.