Summary Day 2
Empowering youth with knowledge and access to SRHR so they can determine their own future
The second day of the 19th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development brought together participants from across different time zones in a joint virtual setting to discuss how to realise the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people. Instead of being split up into working groups like on day one, this second day was dedicated to a high-level panel and an interactive ‘fishbowl’ discussion.
In her welcome remarks, Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), delivered a call to action for meaningful youth participation. “We have to talk with young people, not just about them”, she urged. “They know what they need, what’s best for them and they often have the most pragmatic ideas...so it’s vital to use the potential of youth power.” This sentiment was reiterated in a welcome message by Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations. She reminded delegates that, “nothing about young people should be decided without young people”.
Designing an integrated, multi-sector approach for delivering SRHR
This strong focus on youth empowerment and their rights set the tone for the day. Speakers discussed a rights-based approach to ensure the SRHR of adolescents, allowing them to make autonomous decisions related to their health and bodies. Maria Flachsbarth used the African continent as an example – where two thirds of people are younger than 25 years old. She said, “we have to give all young people a chance to make full use of their talents and to lead healthy, empowered lives. Only then will they be able to participate and contribute to their countries’ economic and social development.” In order to realise young people’s SRHR, a multisectoral and holistic approach is needed. By looking beyond the health sector, it is possible to integrate efforts in other areas such as education and employment. Those synergies can be used to reach young people in their natural habitats, for instance in schools.
Nobody should be left behind
While applying a holistic, multi-sector approach is key, it is equally important to consider the specific needs and vulnerabilities of all young people. Speaking from his home country Kyrgyzstan, Ulukbek Batyrgaliev, a 22-year old Youth Board Member at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) delivered a powerful and inspiring keynote speech. “I hear the urgent call for Sexual and Reproductive Justice and I ask that we hold on to the progress we have made, but keep pushing for more.” Mr. Batyrgaliev was bleak in his assessment of the current situation. Young people are at risk of sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions – especially the poor, marginalised or those in a humanitarian crisis. He highlighted the many young people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities who face severe stigmas at a highly vulnerable point in their lives. In order to ensure a sustainable improvement of the situation, young people must be involved in programming, policy and advocacy. He called on all delegates to trust young people “to make decisions about the world that we will inhabit...and to put young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights at the centre.”
Empowering Youth through Comprehensive Sexuality Education
The following interactive ‘fishbowl’ panel discussion offered the space and opportunity for a rich exchange of information with questions asked, expertise shared and energetic debates on how youth can be empowered through comprehensive sexuality education. A more in-depth report of the fishbowl can be found here.
Working together across all sectors
Thanking the delegates at the close of the event for their engagement, Carolin Bansbach, Head of Unit Health, Education and Social Development – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), said the lively exchanges during the past two days reflected how much more can still be achieved. Ms. Bansbach reminded delegates of the potential of youth power in contributing to economic growth. And she confirmed that the issues discussed by delegates, that are “at the very heart” of GIZ’s engagement in strengthening SRHR for young people, can be achieved through “multi-sectoral cooperation and the creation of an enabling environment”.