Torchbearers of change
“Young people are the torchbearers of change”, starts Rajendra. “They need to be in leading positions, as only they know their own issues and realities. We ensure the participation of young people – including LGBTI people, sex workers and people living with HIV/Aids or disabilities – in all our activities, and create spaces for them to speak up about their ideas and views.”
“Our region is very young, with a big part of the population aged between 14 and 35 years old”, explains Teresa. “And young people are most affected by health, education, employment, poverty and, of course sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. We promote dialogues in which young people are the spokespersons of their demands. We believe it’s important that they occupy spaces that are not exclusively for young people. It’s fundamental for them to have these conversations.”
Young people believing in themselves
Meaningful youth participation and inclusion is core to the partnership, meaning that young people are included throughout. “RHRN Senegal gives young people the chance to lead such a big programme”, says Solange. “They are not just the target group; they are advocates towards decision makers. Our platform trusts them to represent us at all levels. This shows that young people can do something for themselves, if only given the opportunity. It helps young people be proud of themselves and believe in their competencies.”
Saraban adds: “Youth are the future and they need to voice their demands. Our platform includes two youth-led organisations, one of which is gender-diverse. As National Coordinator, I feel personally responsible for the inclusion of young people and I support platform members to implement it.”
Holding decision makers accountable
In all Right Here Right Now countries, it is clear that young people holding decision makers accountable is leading to real results. Solange: “A mayor in one Senegalese region decided to start a budget for youth SRHR, because of the young people leading the advocacy and sharing their own issues.” Saraban saw a similar result in Bangladesh: “One of our youth advocates wrote a letter to the governor of his area on the importance of implementing comprehensive sexuality education. The letter was acknowledged and contributed to all schools being instructed to implement sexuality education in accordance with the law.”
According to Tendaishe, young people become youth champions when trained to lead in these processes. “For example, young people have been familiarised with our national Adolescent SRHR strategy, a critical guiding document. Now, they track and monitor youth-friendly delivery of health institutions, entering health institutions as mystery clients. When the government conducts assessments of health services, they are invited to actively participate.”
“We also trained young people on the Zimbabwean Termination of Pregnancy Act. During national round table meetings, young people, parliamentarians and regional activists analysed the challenges and gaps in the law, and identified key recommendations for the Minister.”
The strength of diverse platforms
Another important aspect of the RHRN platforms, is that they all include a wide-range of organisations. “By working together as a platform, we could make sure LGBTI organisations from our platform joined the Citizen Council of Sexual and Gender Diversities of the City of La Paz”, says Teresa. “Through this membership they advocated for a local law promoting and respecting the human rights of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities.”
“We all know that a lot of things are happening when it comes to advocacy for sensitive issues such as, LGBTI rights and safe abortion. We know that there are safety and security risks and we see civic spaces shrink”, says Tendaishe. “If we work together, we create more safety and security and we’re cost effective.”
Global Programme Meeting
How can Right Here Right Now continue to further advance young people’s SRHR in challenging contexts? What strategies can guarantee the inclusivity of all young people? And how can the partnership sustainably build on its outcomes and lessons learned? The Global Meeting, held in Kenya in June 2019, brought together national coordinators and platform members of the 11 RHRN platforms, as well as the RHRN consortium members, including the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It excelled in being inclusive and strengthening country ownership and leadership, where countries co-led planning and implementation processes of the meeting content, methodology and facilitation.
Right Here Right Now (RHRN) is a five-year programme and global strategic partnership that is active in ten countries, and the Caribbean sub region. The partnership envisions a world where all young people are able to access quality and youth-friendly health services, and are not afraid to openly express who they are and who they love. RHRN believes that young people, everywhere, have the inalienable right to make their own choices, and lead happy and healthy lives.