International Youth Day 2016: Youth Voices Matter

International Youth Day 2016:

#YouthVoicesMatter! Uphold Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights!

 

This International Youth Day, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) and the Latin American Caribbean Women’s Health Network (LACWHN) join advocates worldwide in calling on governments to ensure young people’s meaningful participation in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes affecting their lives. In particular, young people’s voices must be heard in regards to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

To date, adolescents and young people continue to be among the most affected worldwide by persisting inequalities, particularly regarding their SRHR, where many:

  • live in regions where education and health systems are of poor quality and/or inaccessible;
  • are denied access to any existing SRH information and services, because of barriers such as marital or parental consent requirements, stigma surrounding adolescent sexuality, and negative/judgmental attitudes from parents, teachers, healthcare providers or other adult figures;[1]
  • are subjected to sexual violence or early or forced marriage[2];
  • are forced to carry a pregnancy against their will, or resort to desperate and unsafe measures to end an unwanted pregnancy, risking their health and lives;[3]
  • Are in turn denied their rights to health and development, education, safety, privacy, and bodily autonomy, among other human rights violations.[4]

2016 is the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which will shape the international community’s sustainable development efforts over the next 15 years. Yet the 2030 Agenda actually includes few explicit references to adolescents and young people, let alone their SRHR, thereby exemplifying how all too often they continue to be rendered invisible at a policy level in both national and international contexts. Moreover, when young people are recognized they are often treated as a monolith, overlooking their diversity in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic background, civil status, migrant status, whether they are living with HIV, and whether they are in or out of school, among other issues. As a result, certain groups of young people are rendered even more invisible and vulnerable than others; and laws, policies and programmes often fail to acknowledge let alone meet young people’s specific needs, including their SRHR.

Young people have repeatedly shown a willingness, commitment and capacity to be at the table and participate in policy-making processes. In the lead-up to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, young people worldwide consistently demonstrated their leadership, amplifying their voices and priorities in envisioning “the world we want” through landmark multi-stakeholder documents such as the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration, and the Colombo Declaration on Youth[5], as well as through participation in the Major Groups system. Youth advocates have also emphasized the critical importance of recognizing young people’s SRHR, both in terms of realizing other human rights, and their cross-cutting centrality in achieving social justice, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and sustainable development.[6]

If the international community and governments worldwide are to develop and implement sustainable policies and programmes that truly promote young people’s health, rights, and wellbeing, youth voices and priorities must be treated as central.

As such, this International Youth Day we join youth advocates, youth-led and youth-serving organizations and partners worldwide in calling on governments to:

  • Create an enabling environment for meaningful youth participation in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes that affect their lives, at all levels and across all sectors;
  • Establish in collaboration with young people youth-friendly and accessible forms of communication and participation, [7] to enable their active involvement;
  • Ensure the visibility of adolescents and young people in all their diversity in national data collection, through data disaggregation by age (including 10-14 year olds), sex, gender, race, income, ethnicity, disability and geographic location;
  • Ensure and expand the provision of comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care, that are accessible, affordable, confidential, and high-quality, free of marital and parental consent requirements;
  • Recognize young people’s evolving capacities and specific needs, where there is a “legal presumption of competence that an adolescent seeking preventive or time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health goods and services has the requisite capacity to access such goods and services,” as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.[8]

Young people are not only potential leaders in the future; they are also rights-holders here and now!

#YouthVoicesMatter! #IYD2016 #YouthSRHR

 

Source: WGNRR