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Does attendance mean meaningful participation?

Does attendance mean meaningful participation?

For the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, it seems as though the United Nations has heeded the call, "Nothing about us without us." For the first time in its history, this year's session has recorded the highest number of youth participating at the meeting and a record 8600 civil society activists have signed up to attend this year's CSW.

The high numbers of young people, especially young women, is a positive step toward but does attendance mean meaningful participation? Many are raising concerns about the lack of actual participation in decision-making, and their exclusion in high level sessions where policies are being made.

The deep disappointment at the exclusion of majority of Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs), women’s rights organisations and feminist organisations from the process of negotiating the political declaration has been protested with young feminists’ statement. “The CSW must play a role in shaping clear accountability mechanisms for the SDGs and it must provide a permanent and safe space for young women’s meaningful participation and engagement”-claim young feminists.

 While CSW is to be a platform for CSOs, women’s organisations and especially young women are still calling for increasing Inter-generational Dialogue for empowering girls and ensuring that a good percentage of those invited to participate in critical decision-making meetings are young women.

The top priority should me ensuring meaningful and effective participation of young women in political spaces, decision making platforms and accountability mechanisms, including in formulating, developing, implementing and evaluating laws, policies, plans and budgets,  creating an enabling environment for building leadership of young women in local government as well as in provincial and national government, ending all forms of harassment, including direct and indirect political harassment, to realize young women's true participation in the political sphere.  

The last but not the least, ASTRA Youth took an active participation in the developing and presenting the young feminists’ statement as well as joint ASTRA network statement to ECE region delegations and permanent mission on ensuring women voice in CSW.




Approach to people’s with learning disabilities sexuality in Macedonia

People with learning disabilities (PWLD) are still facing stigma in Macedonia; there are few daycare institutions that tend after these people and, therefore, most of them are forced to stay at home.  Thus, they become invisible to the society which creates a thriving field for creating misconceptions and prejudices about them. Among these misconceptions, is the motion about PWLD’s sexuality.

That is to say that even at the level of their families, discrimination begins to occur as parents are either overly protective and regard their children as easily susceptible to sexual abuse, and thus the discourage them from entering any kind of sexual acts, or the family regards the children as something to be ashamed of and, again, discourages them from exploring their sexuality.

Having said that, it is true that since PWLD are more vulnerable, they are estimated to be three times more likely a victim of sexual abuse. However, they are sexual beings as everyone else and they have the same rights as everyone else. In other words, if the parents are too protective and discourage their children from entering any kind of sexual act in order to protect their children from becoming a sexual victim or becoming pregnant, the people with learning disabilities become discriminated and their rights are breached. 

Moreover, this misconception that sexuality for PWLD should not be an issue, since PWLD should not have sex, is furtherly reinforced with the lack of sexual education in Macedonia. Macedonia faces an issue with the lack of sexual education for students without learning disabilities, let alone for students with learning disabilities.  The only sexual education students get is the little information categorized under “life skills”, together with knitting, sewing and etc.  This makes sex a taboo and creates opportunities for spreading false information since there is little legitimate information easily available to the youth.  In turn, this makes sex a double taboo for the PWLD since not only they are clouded with the misconception that sex should not be a part of their lives, but they are also stripped of credible knowledge about their sexual and reproductive rights and, therefore, they become more susceptible to manipulations. 

Along those lines, there are several NGOs who work on solving these issues, however, there is a long path before removing the stigma and creating a pool of easily accessible and credible information about the sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Source: H.E.R.A.

Analysis of sexuality education course books in Poland

Federation for Women and Family Planning and Ponton Group of Sex Educators are currently conducting the project ‘Control of the realization of the right of youth to sexuality education’, with the support of EEA Funds. The first stage of the project was the analysis of core curriculum and course books approved by the Ministry of National Education to use at the lessons of Preparation for Family Life from primary to secondary school. The course books and core curriculum were assessed with attention to their content and accordance with international standards of sexuality education. 

The analysis has demonstrated that course books for PFL (Preparation for Family Life) are unscientific. The authors disseminate the myths and stereotypes concerning human sexuality. Course books lack scientific objectivity and are grounded in the Catholic dogma, as they present theological concepts as sexological knowledge and quote religious authorities to prove their point. They also marginalize preventive healthcare, as growing girls receive obsolete information on regular gynecological visits.

Additionally, the books’ content is outdated, what is evident in the approach to divorce and the existence of family models different than nuclear. Books do not cover sufficiently the topics of cyber violence and threats related to Internet use. The authors also don’t provide youth with advice on how to avoid sexting or childgrooming. The manner of presenting sexual orientation might strengthen homophobic attitudes among students. One of the course books mentions the definition of homosexuality under the subsection dedicated to problems with sexuality and sex crimes.

The approach of books’ authors to sexual violence is particularly worrying. There is no sufficient information for violence survivors. The responsibility for rape is put mostly on girls, who dress or act in an inappropriate way. None of the books contains messages addressed at boys and young men on the need for respecting another person’s boundaries.

The summary of the analysis is accessible here.

Source: Ponton Group of Sex Educators

The development of a new National Youth Strategy in Macedonia

The current national youth strategy in Macedonia is expiring this year. The consultative process for development of a new National Youth Strategy for the period 2016-2025 will start in the middle of April in order to address the current youth issues in the country. For volunteers in H.E.R.A. this is an open door for addressing the importance of SRHR in the new national strategy. Some of them have already applied to take part in the working groups for areas such as health, education and participation. Since one of the identified priorities is better healthcare and healthier lifestyles, there’s room for advocacy for inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the strategy. National youth strategy has to be as comprehensive as possible in order to fully meet the needs of young people in the country, particularly as youth faces multiple challenges in exercising their SRHR.

Currently, there’s no Youth Law implemented as the Macedonian government withdrew the proposed Youth Law after the reactions from civil society organizations in 2011, because the draft law proposed to create a National Youth Council that would be politically run by a board, in which the absolute majority of members would be selected by state authorities. There is no signal that the process will soon move forward. Also, there is no Comprehensive sexuality education, although  SRHR is included as part of the Life Skills education, but according to the last report on the research done among students about the information related to reproductive health and its protection, information on SRH and its protection students receive most of the classes in the biology subject. Health Insurance Fund’s list of medicines doesn’t include any contraceptives, thus hinders young people’s access to them. LGBT rights are also not fulfilled and the European Parliament in the review of Macedonia’s progress in this field has called the country to complete its anti-discrimination law in line with standards from the European Union and to include sexual orientations as ground for discrimination.

Source: H.E.R.A.

Consultation on the sub – themes of the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum

UNESCO has opened virtual consultations on the sub – themes for the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum. The Forum will be convened under the general theme “Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet” and will explore how youth can contribute to enhancement of sustainable development at both local and global level.

The consultation is held to assist UNESCO in defining the sub – themes of the Forum, with the focus on two areas:

  1. Young global citizens in a post-2015 world;
  2. Young global citizens addressing climate change. 

Youth across the globe is invited to provide their input through filling the online questionnaire. The consultation will be available until Monday 13th April, 9 a.m. (CET).

The questionnaire is accessible here.

Source: UNESCO

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