The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) marked a watershed in the global quest to advance access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for all. The ICPD Programme of Action (POA) reflected a remarkable global consensus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as the basis for both individual well-being and social development. It asserted that everyone counts, that the focus of development policy and actions must be the improvement of individual lives, and that the measure of progress should be the extent to which we tackle inequalities.
Globally, there has been uneven progress in improving access to SRHR, with Africa making the least progress and in some cases experiencing significant roll back of gains. Despite several laudable policy and programme initiatives by the African Union (AU) and member states to fast-track universal access to SRHR information and services, many people in the region continue to be left behind. Several factors account for this: conflicts and resultant humanitarian crisis, traditional beliefs and practices, religious barriers, poverty, ignorance, poor program implementation, uneven distribution of and poor access to services, gender, norms etc.
With the theme “Advancing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Urban Informal Settlements (Slums Communities)” during the 9th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights hosted by Africa Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust at Kenya International Convention Centre (KICC)-Nairobi from 10-14th February 2020, the discussions and engagements revolved around how can we inclusively involve the urban informal settlements into sexual reproductive health and rights conversations and debate for their voices to be heard and addressed.
The conference started with a Youth Pre-Conference which ran from 10-11th February with a theme “Accountability; voices; breaking the cycle; leave no one behind; innovation and technology” which brought over 30 different nationalities of young people with aims of building the capacity of young people for high level policy discussions that will be held at the main conference and beyond, develop a collective voice among young people that will then be presented at the main conference and create a space for networking and relationship.
In the Youth Pre-Conference, I was privileged to moderate a session titled “My ICPD+25 Story” where we reviewed the Nairobi ICPD commitments and what young people felt about them, how they could catalyze change in their respective countries and how young people would hold their governments accountable.
Stretchers Youth Organization as well had another opportunity to sit at the panel represented by our SRHR champion and staff Rebecca Achieng’ in a session to discuss the use of technology and innovation in passing the SRH information to the adolescents and young people.
The organization contributed immensely in the development of the youth communique which was shared during the main conference. Below were the ASKs young people demanded
The youth called on government and heads of respective States:
- To ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and those who have entered a reservation particularly on Article14(2)(c) to lift it; and the Convention on Rights on persons with Disabilities.
- To adopt and implement SRHR policies and strategies that are inclusive of all and including LGBTIQA+ and other vulnerable populations, i.e. Men and women in incarceration, Sex workers, Persons with disabilities; Minors, Indigenous women, People who inject drugs, People living with HIV and Aids, Refugees, Young mothers, People with mental illness.
- To increase financing especially for youth friendly centers to ensure that young people access information and services conveniently; and to ensure accountability in the use of these funds.
- To meaningfully and inclusively engage them in policy making processes to articulate their SRHR needs and build capacity of youth for this purpose.
- To adopt and incorporate gender transformative approaches at all levels, to ensure a supportive culture for women and girls.
- To increase awareness on mental health, integrate mental health services and information.
- To ensure that Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as well as mental health is part of the minimum UHC package
To religious and cultural leaders;
- To engage positively by providing factual and accurate information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights to their communities.
- To be receptive of sensitization on comprehensive SRHR provided and supported by Government in collaboration with implementing partners (CSOs, CBOs, NGOs, and FBOs).
Inclusivity in programs is essential especially to those young girls and women living in the informal settlements for they face myriad of SRHR challenges which many at times are not recorded for action to be taken. This platform reminded many programmers that intensive efforts should be put in the informal settlements as well to improve SRHR indicators for young girls and women.
Stretchers Youth Organization