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My dream for the future

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By Humphrey Nabimanya, Reach a Hand Uganda (Uganda)

Growing up in an HIV-affected community, I learned about stigma at a very young age. Although I wasn’t HIV positive, I was treated as such.

I was born in a small village known as Katereza in Mbarara district Uganda. I grew up in the hands of my sister – and she and her husband were both HIV positive. I was strongly affected by this and, like them, I was discriminated against by my friends and their parents. I wasn’t HIV positive, but I began to think I was. No matter how much my mother (sister) would tell me I was not, I still stigmatized myself.

This stigma shouldn’t exist – yet there is no stronger taboo in Uganda than talking about sex and HIV. I wanted to be able to talk openly about these issues with my family and peers but faced resistance. In high school, I started talking to friends about sexuality and HIV/AIDS, and so many young people approached me with different questions. They saw as some kind of oracle, but I just didn’t have all the answers. I knew I had to do something, so I started the project Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU) to give young people a voice and empower them to change their future. Read more...

SRHR beyond 2015: A good step forward, but still some way to go

By: Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver

Last week proved to be an intense week of negotiations in the last of 13 meetings of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. Civil society organizations and countries who support sexual and reproductive health and rights, adolescent and youth issues, and gender equality fought long and hard to get targets included into the final report for the Secretary-General.

The good news is that we succeeded – somewhat – in getting these important issues included in the report that will serve as part of the foundation for the new global development framework for the next 15 years. Read more...

Working Hard to Get the World We Want: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights After 2015

By: Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver

Imagine a world where no woman dies giving life, where unwanted pregnancies are a thing of the past, where every girl is able to attend school and receive a quality education, and where everybody – including girls and women – can exercise their rights and have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. That world is within reach, and the time to fight for it is now.

For those who care about maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – whether advocates, activists, private sector representatives, or policy-makers – we’re approaching a very crucial time in a process that will affect girls and women around the world for decades to come. It’s time to take a deep breath, and to come together for a next-to-final push through this last mile. Read more...

Study Shows that Laws Act as Barrier to Young People Getting Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

New research published today highlights how the law in different countries often restricts young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

PRESS RELEASE: A series of reports by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) also found that taboos and stigma related to young people’s sexuality are often made worse by restrictive laws.

The series called ‘Over-protected and Under-served: A multi-country study on legal barriers to young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services’  provides a global overview of laws relating to consent, sexual expression, equality and violence.

It looks at three case studies in the UK, Senegal and El Salvador – and explores how young people’s knowledge and perceptions of the law impact their access to sexual and reproductive health services.Findings from all three countries highlight young people’s uncertainty and confusion about whether they have the right to access SRH services: Read more...

New MDG Report Highlights the Need to Invest in Girls, Women, and Youth

Since their implementation fourteen years ago, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have made critical strides, yet challenges remain for girls, women and young people, says a new report released today by the United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 shows that while some MDG targets have been met, including the reduction of extreme poverty by half, other critical targets such as MDG 5—the reduction of maternal mortality by 75%—remain far off course. The report indicates that large-scale progress is possible, but only with sufficient funding and data to address staggering inequalities. Read more...

Girls, Adolescents and Youth: Heard. Involved. Engaged.

By: Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, Espolea and Sumaya Saluja, Global Education First Initiative 

The 3rd PMNCH Partners' Forum is over, yet the commitments that have been made prevail. Young people present at the forum were critical, active, and brought attention to key issues affecting adolescents and youth around the world. During the youth pre-meeting, we worked collectively to shape an outcome document, which clearly outlines specific priorities for adolescents and young people in the definition of the post-2015 agenda. During the two days that followed, we advocated to leverage political commitment and accountability.

Investing in adolescents and youth as agents of change pays. Investing in these populations ensures we will be able to reach other young people and provide a better future for the generations to come. Turning the tide on poverty, violence, discrimination and inequality requires young people to be heard, involved and engaged.

Read more...

Young People: Our Present and Our Future

By: Katja Iversen, Women Deliver

Nelson Mandela once said: "Whenever I am with young people, I feel like a recharged battery." I couldn't agree more, after having spent the last couple of days with a good bunch of the Women Deliver Young Leaders at the Partnership on Maternal, Child and Newborn Health (PMNCH) Partners' Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

When young people tell me what motivated them to advocate for girls' and women's health and rights, their stories are at once heartbreaking and inspiring. For Yemurai Nyoni in Zimbabwe, it was a 12-year-old girl named Tecla who was sold into marriage and contracted HIV. For Mary Mwende in Kenya, it was the violence of male-dominated politics that she witnessed as a child in the slums of Mombasa. When faced with injustice, these young leaders took action to improve the world around them -- and their stories, in turn, inspire others. Read more...

It’s All Possible: We Have the Solution in Our Hands!

By: Martin E. Wanzala, Uganda

As deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda at the 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum here in Johannesburg, South Africa gain momentum, it is a great opportunity for young people to ensure that their voices are heard when and where it matters most.

The post-2015 development discussion is one of the most important debates of our time. The global framework that world leaders agree upon in 2015 will guide all future government policies and spending on social and economic development in both developed and developing countries. Read more...

Let’s Go Deeper into Remote Areas for the Post-2015 Development Goals

By: Mary Mwende, Kenya

The first day of the PMNCH Partners’ Forum was an exciting one. I have listened to all of the sessions with keen interest. The forum is a fountain of knowledge and information, with every sentiment converging at the same point. The unity of thought clamors for one common goal - to create a better and healthier world for mothers and newborns around the world, particularly for those who are most vulnerable and impoverished.

I agree with all of this and hope it will be achieved.

As we discussed during the youth pre-forum yesterday, there is a lot left to achieve when it comes to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. More young people have to be meaningfully involved to continue making progress. A drive to create change among youth must be led by the young! Regrettably, the most afflicted youth - particularly girls - are seldom involved in these conversations. Read more...

Young People Engage in a New Challenge – Everybody Counts

By: Gonzalo Nicolas Infante Grandon, Chile

It was with great momentum that the PMNCH Partner’s Forum began yesterday in Johannesburg, kicking off with a Youth Pre-Forum and NGO constituency meetings.  This year, unlike other years, young people are part of the discussions and contributions fostered by the forum.

With 500 days left to reach the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we must go further - with more decisiveness, more strength, and more passion – to accelerate progress in this last push and achieve a better future. Beyond the act of deliberating upcoming policies, we must evaluate the strategies and practices that have already been implemented. We must deepen our understanding and rectify our errors. As we do this, it is worth asking: How have young people been involved? Has it has been enough? Read more...

Be seen! Be heard! Youth at the 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum

By: Yemurai Nyoni and Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver

This 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum is the first large-scale involvement of young people to date. Out of the approximately 1000 participants here in Johannesburg, nearly 10% are youth representatives under 30. This is a great start, and a clear opportunity to increase meaningful youth engagement in the forum and others like it. Will PMNCH consider including a youth constituency to its other seven constituencies while mainstreaming youth within and throughout? We really hope so.

Partners’ Forum representatives come together from governments, civil society, development agencies, private sector, and the media to deliberate on how best to accelerate progress for women, children and adolescents in the context of RMNCH. Youth representatives are uniquely positioned to put our issues front and center, and to magnify our contributions to advancing maternal and newborn health. Read more...

The World’s Biggest Problem: Young People

By: Denise Dunning; Originally posted by Huffington Post

Denise Dunning is the Founder and Executive Director, Let Girls Lead, Champions For Change, and the Youth Champions Initiative

The world seems to keep getting worse -- every day, the news tells us shocking stories of violence, brutality and war. And the truth is, we often blame young people for these seemingly insurmountable challenges. We blame terrorism on the unemployed young men who become radicalized extremists. We blame poverty on the uneducated young women who become pregnant and give birth to babies they can't afford.

If you believe the news, the world's biggest problem is young people. There are currently over 1.8 billion young people in the world, with 88 percent of all adolescents living in poor countries (UNICEF 2012). Too many of these young men and women are uneducated, unemployed, and unable to access basic health services and information.

The world's biggest problem certainly is young people, but not in the way you might think. The world's biggest problem is this -- we as a global community have failed to provide young people with the basic tools and resources they need to thrive, much less create a better world. Read more...

Invest in Adolescents and Young People for a Better Future

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Partners’ Forum begins on June 30th in South Africa. The annual conference brings together global partners in the maternal, newborn, and child health communities to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities in ensuring the wellbeing and empowerment of the world's children and women. With the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015, this year’s conference will have a particular focus on envisioning the post-2015 development framework. Ahead of the event, Women Deliver launched a new infographic and co-hosted a Google+ Hangout with Girls’ Globe and young leaders to reignite a conversation about the importance of investing in the health and rights of adolescents and young people. 

The new infographic brings attention to the current global status of today’s youth. It highlights the barriers that young people, particularly young women, face in fully realizing their rights and makes the case for meaningful youth participation in the development processes. The infographic joins six others in a series, all devoted to a variety of girls’ and women’s health and rights issues. Read more...

Joining Hands to Improve Reproductive Health Outcomes for Youth in Uganda

By: Martin Wanzala, Allied Youth Initiative (Uganda)

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

Growing up on the fringes of Ugandan society, I have witnessed firsthand how HIV/AIDS, early or unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion rob my country of the lives of young men and women. The World Bank indicates that more than three quarters of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30. The health of these young people should be a national priority.

While Uganda has made significant strides in improving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) indicators over the last decade, the status of young people, reflected by those same indicators, remains very poor. For instance, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates are four times higher in youth than in the general population. The unmet need for contraception is an unacceptably high 41 percent, while the adolescent pregnancy rate stands at 43 percent. HIV/AIDS is all too common, infecting 8.3 percent of young women and 6.1 percent of young men. The 2013 State of Uganda Population report reveals that of the estimated 297,000 unsafe abortions that occur every year in the country, nearly half of them are among girls and young women ages 15-24. Read more...

Jagoroni: The Rising of a Movement against Dowry and Early Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: SM Shaikat, SERAC-Bangladesh

Early marriage and dowry-related violence are harmful practices, but they are common in Bangladesh. When girls marry, they often drop out of school and have limited social interaction. Currently, just 45% of adolescent girls are enrolled in secondary school, and even fewer attend regularly. Domestic violence occurs all too often and with impunity. From January to September 2013, 265 cases of violence against women occurred; 128 women died from physical torture, but just 111 cases were filed against the perpetrators.

Most cases of marriage-related violence are never reported and some are intentionally covered up. Until recently, no group existed in Bangladesh that could track and prevent these types of gender violence. To address this situation, I developed a project called Jagoroni, a Bengali word that means “rising.” I’m creating a youth-led watchdog system to eliminate dowry- and child marriage-related violence against girls and women in Mymensingh district, which has the highest rates of violence in the country. Read more...

FRESH - Fully and Richly Empowered about Sexual Health

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Nargis Shirazi, FRESH Campaign (Uganda)

“I cannot use a condom. Condoms cause cancer in the long run. I prefer to go live!”

I gasped when one of my acquaintances said this. I know the picture you have in your head… a rural girl with unkempt hair and dirty nails who had dropped out of school. Well that’s not quite it – let me paint the picture. These words came from an intelligent lawyer who has been practicing for more than three years. She wears high heels, speaks with confidence and is currently working toward her master’s degree. That myth was actually embedded in the mind of what society would call “a learned individual!” Read more...
 

Women Deliver Young Leader Humphrey Nabimanya Nominated for Award

Humphrey Nabimanya, winner of a C Exchange Seed Grant and a 2013 Women Deliver 100 Young Leader, has been nominated for the inaugural 2014 MTV Base Leadership Award for his outstanding work as a youth advocate in Uganda.

This award, created by Viacom International Media Networks (Africa) and MTV Base as part of the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs), recognizes young Africans, under the age of 35, whose leadership and contributions are making a remarkable impact towards the growth and development of the continent. Read more...

We Have the Power to End Child Marriage

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By; Yemurai Nyoni, Bulawayo Youth Development Organization (Zimbabwe)

When Tecla woke up, she carried out her chores with a little more urgency than usual. She was starting a new job to raise money for her school fees, so she couldn’t afford to be late. When she had finished collecting water, cleaning the house and preparing breakfast, she left with her mother to meet her employers.

As they walked together, she felt happy. The money she would earn as a maid would help her parents send her to school. She would be like the other children in Epworth. She could play games, listen to exciting stories and achieve her dream of being a teacher. As her thoughts turned into a pleasant day-dream, she was brought back to reality by her mother’s voice as she said nervously, “tasvika” (we’ve arrived).

Now her joy turned to fear, because of the tone of her mother’s voice, but also as she thought of the enormity of the task ahead. She was going to be a maid for a family she had never met, and at 12 years old, she felt she wasn’t ready. Nonetheless, she followed obediently behind her mother, the woman who had sacrificed so much for her. Read more...

Traditional Rulers Take Action Against Adolescent Pregnancy in Cameroon

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Numfor Alenwi Munteh, Cameroon Agenda for Sustainable Development (CASD)

There is an African proverb which says, “The piper – not the dancers – determines the rhythm of music.” Similarly, in Cameroon, traditional rulers – not community members – define cultural and traditional practices that influence attitudes and behaviors.

For centuries, cultural practices and beliefs promoted by traditional leaders (“Fons”) in the North West Region (NWR) of Cameroon have led to high rates of adolescent pregnancy. In many Cameroon villages, people believe that if a man or woman dies without a child, they should be buried with a stone as a sign of disgrace. There is also the belief that a newlywed girl must prove her maturity and fertility by giving birth as soon as possible after marriage. These societal pressures make early motherhood a likely outcome for many young women. Read more...

Campus-Based Initiative Delivers SRH Information and Services to University Students in Nigeria

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Ajidagba Emman Babatunde (Tunde), Campus Health & Rights Initiative (Nigeria)

Every year in my home country of Nigeria, there are 6.8 million pregnancies. Approximately one in five of them are unintended. There are 3.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS and 60% of new infections occur among young people ages 15 to 24. One reason for these staggering numbers is the low level of contraceptive use among young people, who encounter socio-cultural barriers that prevent them from accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.

Having worked for over 10 years in the field of young adults’ sexual and reproductive health, I have seen firsthand the challenges that young people, particularly those in university settings, confront. They include engaging in risky behaviors like having transactional sex, unprotected sex, and sex with multiple partners, as well as facing the threat of sexual violence. Read more...

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