The 4th edition of the International Advocacy Campaign "10 Days of Activism"

The World We All Want

Y-PEER

The World We All Want

...

THE WORLD WE ALL WANT #10DoA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shreejana Bajracharya

Name: Shreejana Bajracharya
Age:25
Country:Nepal

When I reflect back, it’s already been more than 6 years, I am working as youth volunteer in Family Planning Association. I still remember the day, actually my first day in youth center of the organisation in Bhaktapur. The room was full of young girls and boys and in the middle of the room there was a young girl sharing her problem. She was an unmarried pregnant girl who was asking other young people in around her. I was given a card with doctor written on it and there were few more people arounf with card named sister, teacher, mother and friend. The young girl who was sharing her story asked me for suggestion after sharing her problem of unwanted pregnancy. I told her if she does not want to keep the pregnancy then you may wish to go for safe abortion which is right of a woman. With my answer, everyone else in the room clapped. Actually it was an exercise called ‘figure head exercise’.

After this there was no looking back. I was all ready to speak about my body, choice and access to sexual and reproductive health. Slowly I became more aware about the youth center and its work and with my involvement, I started getting opportunities to take part in many training and workshops. It was 2007 when I represent youth of Nepal in an international youth conference to present on Sex work, HIV and youth I got an international exposure. Similarly I got involved in different projects including advocating for Comprehensive sexuality education in Nepal in which my responsibility was also to conduct radio program, a popular radio program which is about young people SRHR. My team used to get lot of queries from young people in the program. I remember one of the questions we asked in radio program "From where the young people get SRHR information?" One of the listeners of our program SMS us "50% from books, 20% from internet, 10% from friends, 3% from cousins, 1% from teachers and 0.01 from parents"  This showed that parents are uncomfortable to talk with their children about SRHR and young people are also not able to discuss their RH problems with their family members. This was a great lesson learnt and then I and my youth center team organized parent meeting where we noticed that parents also want any other but authentic place where their children could get information and services regarding SRHR.

Recently now I am working as youth consultant in Ipas Nepal and supervisor of World Bank project "Reproductive health classes for young women factory workers". Being a young woman and belonging to conservative society where talking about sex and sexuality is a taboo, I have seen young people struggling because they face RH problem in their daily life. This has been inspiration for me to work in the field of young people's SRHR. Young people are not a homogenous group. The young women working in the factories are marginalized group and vulnerable to high risk behaviors. Therefore Ipas Nepal with its youth led partner organizations is working to raise awareness about RH among young women factory workers by conducting series of RH classes (SRH rights, sex & gender, relationship, anatomy, puberty & menstruation, pregnancy, contraception and safe abortion)

One of the young women in factory shared, " oh god! I am a mother of two sons and till today I did not know about female genital organs. I did not know that vagina is where sexual intercourse takes place and urethra is for only urination." We also found that there is high sexual abuse among young women factory workers and unsafe sex behaviors. Most of the young women are unaware about legalization of safe abortion in Nepal. It has been 10 years after legalization of abortion in Nepal but still young women are unaware of the fact that it is young women's sexual and reproductive rights.

The best lesson learnt in my life experience is that, only peers can understand another young people’s SRH problem. Therefore active involvement and participation of young people must be there while planning policies and programs for youth.

Mforian Mouassie Soilihou (Salif)

Name: Mforian Mouassie Soilihou (Salif)
Age:26
Country: Cameroun

It was in 2002 when things got started for me being here in this stage. I was a young person in a peer group which planning to start the first health club in our school with a motivation to fight against HIV and AIDS among youth in Cameroon in some way. We slowly got awareness on the whole issue of HIV and AIDS whereas I was aware that my community was still far away from the knowledge related to it. My engagement provided me with an opportunity to become a peer educator in a local NGO called CEPROSCON to work for “participation and development of adolescent program” with UNICEF. During the time, I got trained on life skills, behavioral analysis, vulnerability and risk mapping, animation of friendly discussions and activities for youth and adolescents.

This opportunity encouraged me to take my own leadership among youth and to commit myself to contribute for my community. As a peer educator for 3 years, my task was to create and organize local health club, focus group discussions in the community and to lead the elaboration of local vulnerability and risk map. My dynamism convicted my peers and facilitators to select me as the delegate of my region at the National Youth Network in which I am the national president today.

Since my engagement, I have participated to the achievements of many actions (campaign, training, conferences...) and have been involved in related issues affecting youth and adolescents like; HIV and AIDS, child trafficking, violences against women and girls, youth participation, etc. In my initiative, a youth friendly center which established for benefiting youth and adolescents to address the issue of sexual health and to have good information. I am proud to reflect that i have helped more than 1500 peers educators to enhance their knowledge on HIV and AIDS through different activities.  I was designated by UNAIDS Cameroon as a best practice of youth leadership in the struggle against AIDS among youth in 2007 (confer “Stop sida, paroles des leaders”, by UNAIDS 2007). The same dynamism gave me the confidence of African youth peers who nominated me to represent them at the 15th Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union in Kampala in 2010 alongside two other youths (confer voices of youth by UNICEF-Uganda, 2010). Now, I am involved to the global campaign launched in 2010 by Ban ki Moon, the General Secretary of United Nations called “UNiTE to end violences against women and girls” (confer www.africaunitecampaign.org ).

Each day, I take few minutes to ask myself, what have I done to contribute to build a better world. I think as a young person, we all should ask this question to ourselves, to share a common vision. I am proud to feel useful for my community, country and continent. At this point, I remember a discussion with a young boy one day who asked me: “Mr. President, we are really proud of you, what do you want to be in the future?” and I replied “... the most important is not what you are, but what you bring to your people, the vision you are following for a social justice...”

By MFORAIN MOUASSIE Soilihou (Salif)

Cameroon Youth Network and Horizon Jeune association

Marta Szostak

Name: Marta Szostak
Age:28
Country: Poland

MARTA SZOSTAK

I have been coordinating ASTRA Youth Network for over two years now and I enjoy my work a lot. One of the things which I value the most is the possibility to meet new, active and dedicated people from the entire world and also see us, young people, making a change and having an impact on the surrounding world especially in regards to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

One of the actions which we undertook within the ASTRA Youth Network, in close cooperation with the ASTRA Network, was submitting a petition to the European Parliament (EP) on introducing mandatory comprehensive sexuality education classes into schools of the European Union member states in 2011. Another issue raised in the Petition was to support the national Ministers of Health/Education in implementing such educational programmes by the EP. The idea was to bring the issue of sexuality education to a different level. Writing the Petition was quite a long process , the document was finalized at 33 pages!  I recieved a lot of support from my co-workers and other members from ASTRA regarding the content of the Petition. The rationale and background information on sexuality education was followed by information on the European Union and what it has already done and said on this issue as well as case studies from the undersigned countries. The Petition was signed by seven NGOs from Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria.

I sent the document in April 2011 and the first reply, concerning the receipt of the petition and granting it a register number, was recieved a month later. In October 2011 we recieved a second letter from the EP (nice to know they pay attention to keep EU citizents updated on their works) stating that the Committee on Petitions had begun examination of the Petition and the European Commission began investigating the various aspects of it. The Petition was also found admissible and refered to another Committee for more information, namely the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

After this letter there was a long waiting period. In March 2012 we recieved a final reply. It was a positive sign in terms of us actually recieving a reply from Brussels, it also confirmed that the European Parliament petition mechanism really works. As to the content of the
reply - the EP confirmed the importance of education on sexual health among young people and that it has a positive effect on their health and prevention of unwanted pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. It also showed to the expertise of the Eurydice Network which stated that sex education is often included in the national school cirricula (really?). However, the EU is not in the position to evaluate wether „significant disparities (...) in access to comprehensive sexual health education exist across the EU” as ASTRA Youth described in the Petition (we are however more than sure that such disparities exist, especially considering the New Member States and the older ones). The EU has moreover no power to influence the national school cirricula and hence the case is considered closed.

This petition has proven that regarding Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issues it can be a difficult task to rely solely on the intergovernmental institutions. It is also a sign that we must take our issue into our own hands – which too can be difficult but actions on local level can grow bigger with time. How can they grow bigger? With the support of young people who wish to do something for their peers, their community and themselves. Young people who see the connection between their lives and the lives of their peers in other countries.  We are currently the largest generation of youth that ever lived on this planet – we CAN make a change and the process has already begun.


If you wish to read the full text of the petition and also the three replies from the European Parliament please click here: http://www.astra.org.pl/youth/advocacy-work/petitions.html


*ASTRA Youth is an informal group of young advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights from the Central and Eastern Europe region and Balkan countries. It was launched in 2004 as a youth wing of the ASTRA Network. ASTRA Youth is especially dedicated to advocacy for the implementation of comprehensive and reliable sex education in the school curriculum, access to science-based, free of indoctrination information on sex, HIV/AIDS prevention and youth friendly services among adolescents as well as the participation of young people in the policy development and decision making processes regarding SRHR. - www.astra.org.pl/youth








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