One of the biggest wins at the London Summit on Family Planning held on July 11th, 2017, is the engagement of young people in almost all panels and consultations, underscoring the reality that youth are both beneficiaries and key actors in sexual and reproductive health interventions across countries.
About 15 young people from a number of developing countries formed the Summit’s Youth Advisory Group that demonstrated the dynamism young people have, once empowered and given opportunities to act. And youthful countries have no choice but to open doors to these upcoming champions and youth networks in their respective societies.
“I have listened and learnt a lot from the various sessions at the Summit, and I see a lot of opportunities to rally other young people around SRHR issues in my country,” said Qaisar Roonjha from Pakistan. Globally adolescent and youth constitute the largest group of over 1.2 billion people aged 10 – 19 years, the majority of whom (89%) live in developing countries.
Meaningful youth engagement through knowledge building, funding of youth-led programs, and sustained mentorship, is an opportunity for countries to harness youth potential in transforming their respective societies. And the SRHR focus, which includes family planning services, is an investment towards attaining socio-economic development.
Today, a number of countries in sub-Sahara Africa, Tanzania included, are grappling with high fertility rates within a resource-stricken environment leading to high dependency ratios and poverty. Unfortunately, adolescents and youth are among those who contribute to and impacted by these conditions.
Therefore, with the right investment in engaging young people, building their knowledge, and granting them opportunities to access and make contraceptive choices, transformation in developing countries is inevitable.
The Summit’s Youth Advisory Group move to develop an Accountability Framework to guide the Group members in mobilizing fellow young people at country level to undertake youth-led social accountability and advocacy initiatives, is a solid step forward.
The framework will open doors for youth to participate in as well as monitor implementation of commitments made by their governments intended to scale up SRHR access. Success is more likely if this growing ‘army’ of knowledgeable youth across countries is tirelessly mentored to acquire greater heights in life while resources continue to be directed to youth-led initiatives.
It is indeed in this spirit that the Advance Family Planning (AFP) and partners – HDT and TCDC – embarked on a partnership journey November last year with the Tanzania Adolescent and Youth SRHR Coalition (TAYARH), also represented in the Youth Advisory Working Group, to push for youth meaningful engagement in SRHR especially family planning.