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Advancing Acess to Youth-Friendly SRH Services and Information

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

By: Martin Wanzala, Allied Youth Initiative (Uganda)

I personally believe that a country’s youth population is one of its greatest assets. However, to harness our young people’s vibrant ideas and potential, we must give them opportunities to leave a lasting impact on our communities and nations.

Young people under the age of 30 account for more than half of the world’s 7 billion people. In Uganda – the second youngest population in the world – more than 78 percent of the population is under the age of 30. The time is now for Uganda to increase investments in its young people.

One of the best ways to ensure that young people can lead healthy and productive lives is improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Although the government of Uganda and its development partners support sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programs and policies, there are still not enough services to support widespread need. Read more

The Outreach with Maureen Odour, Tanzania

Orginally posted by Maafanta.com

An interview with Maureen Odour, a Women Deliver Young Leader and Founder of Plan at Hand Girl Empowerment Project

Oumie: Greetings Lady Maureen! It’s indeed an honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with a fantastic, extremely brilliant and committed young woman as you. I must admit that I am delighted having you as our guest, especially for this month that we are celebrating International Youth day. It’s an honor to showcase your work in the Outreach. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Maureen: Oumie, I am really honored to be part of the Outreach. I am Maureen Oduor, a development specialist by profession and women and girls reproductive health rights activist. I am Kenyan but work in Tanzania with African Peace Ambassadors Tanzania. I am the regional coordinator of the organization. Also, I am one of Women Deliver’s 100 young leaders working on women and girl’s empowerment.

Oumie: Thank you. Let’s begin with a little bit of history here. We all have our different paths that have motivated us or influenced our involvement in the global women’s movement. Please tell us a little about how your journey began. Read more...

Making Progress Toward a Bangladesh Free From 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

It’s still a nightmare for many girls and women from poor families in Bangladesh to get married without a dowry. Many women whose families fail to comply with dowry demands experience mental and physical abuse – and even death – at the hands of their husbands or in-laws. It is my dream to stop these atrocities and transform Bangladesh into a dowry- and early marriage-free nation.

During my legal studies, I learned that dowries and child marriage are root causes of violence against women – and I immediately realized that I had to do something to put an end to these harmful practices. Armed with little more than determination, I launched awareness campaigns aimed at young people in Bangladesh. Before I knew it, a good number of young people joined the effort. Together we pressured law enforcement agencies, worked with media and advocated with stakeholders to generate attention around our cause. Read more...

Giving Young People a Fighting Chance

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)

I grew up under difficult circumstances. My three siblings and I were raised by a single mother, my brothers taunted me constantly and I bore witness to the vulnerability of my little sister. From these experiences, I learned how to stand up for and defend myself and speak out against injustices endured by others. I became a firm believer in progressive alternatives to restrictive societal norms, especially those that limit opportunity and equality for women. 

In my home country of Zimbabwe, child marriage is a particularly egregious problem. 1 in 3 girls are married before 18 years of age, and 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies occur among girls who are married or in unions. Taking girls from their families threatens their health and educational development and violates their rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read more...

WE ARE FRESH – ARE YOU?

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)

Enabling young people is one of the best ways to help a nation flourish. In my country of Uganda, youth make up nearly 80 percent of the population – an enormous wealth of untapped potential. However, poor economic and educational opportunities plague Uganda’s youth, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) has suffered unjustly.

Sex is not openly talked about in Uganda. Ugandans suffer from alarming HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy rates, yet we deprioritize SRH and inhibit access to the youth friendly services that millions across this country desperately need. Often times, the services youth can access are counterproductive to the issues at hand – what good is preaching abstinence to someone already engaged in sex? We need to be promoting proven solutions to help Uganda’s youth live healthier, more productive lives. Read more...
 

Sustainable Development Depends on Ensuring Access to Young People’s SRHR

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

I’m demanding young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the post-2015 agenda because is their fundamental human right. It encompasses the right of all individuals to make decisions concerning their sexual activity and reproduction, free from all discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to SRHR ensures individuals are able to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity; to choose whether and when to have children; and to access the information and services to do so.

As we celebrate International Youth Day, even though the global community has made major strides in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes since the International Conference and Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, it is important to remember that millions of people, mostly adolescents, still lack access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services. Read more...

Dreaming of a World without Maternal Deaths

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)

I dream of a world where every woman can consciously plan and space her pregnancies, and each baby is delivered safely and in good health. However, the reality in many developing countries plays more like a nightmare.

In my home country of Cameroon, nearly 14 percent of deaths among women of reproductive age are due to maternal causes, compared to 1.5 percent in the United States and 0.5 percent in Switzerland. Globally, almost 800 women die every day due to preventable complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Ending maternal deaths will not be easy, but I’ve made it my mission to conquer this challenge. Read more...

Why Do Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Matter for Young People in the Post-2015 Agenda?

By: Chukwudera Bridget Okeke, Concern Women International Development Initiative (Nigeria)

Today, adolescents constitute about half of the world’s population – more than ever before. Worldwide, the number of adolescents is estimated at 1.1 billion, with 85% of them living in developing countries. Half of these young people will have sexual intercourse by the time they reach the age of 16 and most of them by the time they are 20.

There is a high incidence of unwanted pregnancies in many developing countries. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that out of the 200 million pregnancies that occur each year, about 80 million are unwanted. It has been estimated that about 10% of all pregnancies each year occur among teenagers. Most of these pregnancies are either unwanted or unintended. Often times, adolescents are forced to resort to clandestine, and usually unsafe, abortion methods to terminate these pregnancies. Read more...

Closing the Gap in Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and Education

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

By: Chukwudera Bridget Okeke, Concern Women International Development Initiative (Nigeria)

My dream for the future is to live in a society where young people and other marginalised groups have full access to sexual and reproductive health services irrespective of their age, gender and ethnicity. As a girl growing up in Nigeria, I noticed that it was often difficult for young people – and young girls in particular – to access sexual and reproductive health education and care. It’s a reality I’ve always wanted to change.

In my experience, barriers to information and services were often a result of cultural practises or religious beliefs that undermined the right of women and girls in patriarchal environments. In some cultures, it is a general belief that young girls are expected to maintain self-pity, and therefore any attempt to seek sexual and reproductive health information or services is often considered taboo or unacceptable. I’ve always wondered: why do some cultures allow young boys, but not girls, to express their sexual desires without any reprimand? Read more...

Saving Lives: How Text Messaging can Improve Access to Family Planning

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

By: Maureen Anyango Oduor, Plan At Hand Girl Empowerment Project (Tanzania)

I have a dream! I dream of a world where young women have information about and can access affordable and youth-friendly family planning services. I imagine family planning services being viewed as precious commodities, penetrating the hardest-to-reach markets effectively and consistently just like ice-cold bottles of Coca-Cola.

When adolescent girls don't have access to information about their sexuality, or to condoms and other contraceptive methods, the impact is intensely personal — an unplanned pregnancy, HIV or sexually-transmitted disease infection, or injury in an unsafe relationship — but the sum of these individual experiences are catastrophic for communities and for countries. Pregnancy-related deaths are a leading cause of mortality for girls aged 15-19 years-old in low-and middle-income countries.

In Tanzania, young people are at an elevated risk of experiencing sexual and reproductive health problems. The adolescent childbearing rates in Tanzania are among the highest in East Africa, where, by no coincidence, young people also have the highest unmet need for contraception. Investing in the health of adolescent girls is not only the right thing to do, but will also have a lasting impact on Tanzania’s economic and social development. Read more...

 

Knowledge is Power: Youth-Led SRH Education for a Brighter Future

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)

As a young advocate from Nigeria, I have seen the numerous challenges that young people experience in my country firsthand.  One of the greatest challenges I see in my country is a growing generation of young people – and the difficulties they face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services and realizing their reproductive rights. But I also see this as an opportunity for positive change.

Right now, most young people in my country have an unmet need for modern contraceptives. In other words, they want to use contraceptives, but are not using them for one reason or another. Socio-cultural barriers to youth-friendly information and care and a lack of government resources are among the biggest barriers to Nigerian youth accessing the sexual and reproductive health services they need. Read more...

Girls and Women Won’t Be Left Behind

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

By: Cecilia Garcia Ruiz, Espolea (Mexico)

My dream is to live in a world where people’s age, gender, ethnicity, health, marital status or sexual orientation does not prevent them from exercising their rights. I would like to see societies where girls and women have a say in the collective decisions of their communities and countries, but most importantly, in the choices concerning their lives, their sexuality and their reproduction. Shaping the future we want requires urgent action at local and international levels.

Today, the world has the biggest youth population in history. In Mexico, 32% of the population is young (approximately 38 million)  – half of whom are women. Despite these numbers, young people have limited opportunities to contribute to development. Billions of young people around the world – and millions within in my country – have the potential to shift the prevailing paradigm if we act now. Read more...

 

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...

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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