Youth Advocate Jairo Rodrigues attends CPD: “Young people need to push the agenda of SRHR, as it really affects us”

“All in all, it was amazing for me as a young person to be at a UN event like this. It’s the largest space of political lobbying in the world.” This April, the 52nd session of the UN Commission for Population and Development (CPD) took place in New York. Youth advocate, Jairo Rodrigues from Guyana attended, as part of our Right Here Right Now Strategic Partnership. He looks back at a thrilling and inspiring experience at the United Nations, and has a clear assignment for his home country.

Taking lessons back to Guyana

“Attending CPD was my first time at such an event. The atmosphere was both terrifying and amazing at the same time”, reflects Jairo. “There are thousands of people and you’re on a very tight schedule. In the UN space everyone is so busy. You continuously have fear of missing out.”

Unlike Jairo, his country, Guyana, didn’t attended this session of CPD. “This was surprising to us, as we submitted a really good report to the regional commission just a few months before. There was no real reason for Guyana to skip."


Jairo teaching comprehensive sexuality education in Guyana.

"However, setting my disappointment about this aside, it inspired me to do two things. I will share everything I learned with other youth advocates at home, and I will talk to our Minister of Social Protection about how we can support them in the run-up to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD+25.”

Double shame

The Right Here Right Now partnership hosted a special event for young people attending CPD. Here, Jairo addressed SRHR issued faced in the Caribbean region. “I focused on three thematic priorities: abortion rights, the rights of LGBTI people and sexuality education. Youth should really be the ones pushing the agenda on these subjects, as we often forget that this really affects us.”

“Let’s take abortion as an example. It’s legal here in Guyana, but especially young, rural and indigenous people are restricted from actually using the facilities, due to the huge stigma. There really is no win for a 15-year-old girl: she’s shamed for being pregnant and shamed for having an abortion. Only if we educate communities, will they be more supportive.”

UN Youth Envoy

It wasn’t just at official events that Jairo advocated for youth SRHR. At a meeting organised by Right Here Right Now, Jairo had a discussion with the UN Youth Envoy. His message to her? “I addressed the bullying of LGBTI youth in schools and communities. We need to look at this issue in a more comprehensive way, including LGBTI people in every step of our work. Of course, I also invited her to come to our region and speak with our Gender Justice Office.”

The Right Here Right Now team with the UN Youth Envoy 
The Right Here Right Now team with the UN Youth Envoy.

ICPD+25

This year’s CPD focused on the review and appraisal of the ICPD Programme of Action, a ground-breaking agenda that was signed 25 years ago. On the first day, a statement was signed, reaffirming the commitment of countries to the ICPD Programme of Action and calling for its further and accelerated implementation. Besides the political declaration, 50 countries signed a cross-regional statement read by the Netherlands. By signing this statement countries agree on accelerated action to promote, defend and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to comprehensive sexuality education.

A critical place for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Rutgers has again been strongly engaged in the advocacy around the CPD, and not just by working with youth advocates from different Right Here Right Now countries. Evi van den Dungen, Advocacy Officer at Rutgers, was part of the Dutch government delegation. She delivered a statement on the importance of information and comprehensive sexuality education for young people. She said: “There is clear proof that our ambitions and policies pay off. The Netherlands has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy and abortion rates in the world.”

Rutgers believes that the CPD remains one of the critical places for countries and civil society to discuss commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights – which are also part of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development (SDG 3.7 and 5.6).

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