‘Well, it’s an issue that keeps me awake at night,’ Ploumen responded.
She suggested not only to talk to people who agree on your points of view, but also to debate with people who have other views.
For instance, when the Minister recently went to the Vatican in Italy, she talked about child marriage and gender based violence.
Issues that also, in another way, concern the Vatican.
‘Continue to have your voice heard’, Ploumen urged bystanders. That was something the four young guests from Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan and Curaçao/the Netherlands certainly did. Edith Esinam Asamani (25) from Ghana opened the event sharing her personal story.
As a child of two teenage parents, Edith had a tough childhood. She started working at the age of 11. ‘At work I was touched in places I didn’t want to be touched’, she told the audience. ‘Many girls in Ghana have sex in exchange for money in order to survive.’
But Edith got empowered. ‘I felt I had the right to live. I had the right to education and health care. I had the right to choose.’ And now she is a peer educator for other young people in her community
Edith, Naba Khan (23) from Pakistan, Kelvin Mokaya Obegi (22) from Kenya and Karym Leito (24) from Curaçao each pitched a picture from the Young & In Control photo exhibition and asked Mrs Ploumen questions such as ‘how can you as a Minister stimulate that comprehensive sexuality education is incorporated into the school’s curriculum, especially in developing countries?’
And ‘in what way are you going to convince your fellow Ministers to collaborate with young people?’ Minister Ploumen took time to answer each question. ‘All of us have to stand up and fight for our freedom’, she concluded.
‘Sexual norms and values can be so culturally bound that we might be pushing our Western idea of thinking onto others too much. How do you think what we do can really benefit others while still respecting cultural differences at the same time?’ moderator Andrew Makkinga asked Lambert Grijns, Dutch Ambassador for SRHR & HIV/AIDS, and Lotte Dijkstra, Dutch Youth Ambassador SRHR.
Both Lambert and Lotte agreed that it is crucial to find accessible entry points to start conversations. They emphasized that the direct ‘Dutch approach’ obviously works as, for instance, teenage pregnancy numbers are very low in the Netherlands: ‘We can share our experiences and explain how we address these issues in our country.’
'Learn from young people'
Political actors Frank de Jong (International Officer of DWARS, Dutch Young Greens), Arvid Plugge (International officer Young Democrats), Roelof van Laar (Member of Parliament for PvdA, spokesman on Development Cooperation, Foreign Trade and Kingdom Relations) and Ben van Gils (Policy Officer for SP, Socialist Party) contributed to the discussion on stage.
Frank and Arvid were impressed by the results of the programmes of the SRHR Alliance. Roelof was amazed by the fact that it is still relatively ‘new’ to talk with young people instead of about them.
"The Dutch government should and could do more to support them." "We can all learn from young people", Ben added.
Roelof made a powerful statement that the budget for refugees in the Netherlands should not be taken from the budget allocated to development issues. Many people in the audience nodded their heads as they agreed with that remark.
Young & In Control photo exhibition
Lambert Grijns and Lotte Dijkstra officially opened the Young & In Control photo exhibition, that consists of pictures from Kenyan and Indonesian youngsters and their stories about their sexuality.
The pictures are the work of award winning photographer Marieke van der Velden, who was also present.
The Young & In Control photo exhibition can be visited in the Atrium (City Hall) in The Hague (the Netherlands) until July 2 2016.
The Young & In Control event was organised to share the succes of the two large-scale youth programmes UFBR & ASK. These programmes aimed to improve sexuality education, increase access to youth-friendly health services and create a supportive environment for young people’s SRHR.
Some impressive figures: 20 million people were reached with education and information on sexuality, health and rights and they are now better able to make safe and informed choices about their bodies and lives, 40 million contraceptives were distributed. The investment (almost €75 million) that was made by the government, helped make these results possible.