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Youth has a right to learn about sex!

During the last week of April representatives from the United Nation’s member states met to discuss the rights and needs of young people in regard to sexuality, health and reproduction. It was the 45th meeting of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) in New York. Anette Remme (25), the former SAIH president of 2011, was the youth representative in the Norwegian delegation. And Amos Mwale (31), the Executive Director of SAIH’s partner organisation Youth Vision Zambia, was one of the official representatives in the Zambian delegation. They were there to speak out and make sure that young people are secured the right to sexuality education, access to safe abortion and health care!

(image) Amos Mwale (31), from SAIH’s partner organization Youth Vision Zambia The discussion at the CPD in New York this April originates from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994. The UN member states then agreed on a Program of Action stating some main principles for sustainable development, based on the International Human Rights. Reproductive health, including the ability to have a safe and satisfying sex life, the freedom to decide if and when to have children and access to information and health care services, were important parts of this plan. This was the first time that reproductive rights was explicitly spelled out and this Program of Action has since guided individual states’, development agencies’ and civil society’s initiatives and priorities internationally in regard to sustainable development.

The aim of the meeting in New York in April was to agree on a resolution. And during a long week of intense negotiations between the states a final resolution was agreed on. Amos was the Zambian voice, speaking up for the interest of Zambian youth. These are some of Amos’ reflections from sitting at the negotiating table, fighting for youth’s rights on behalf of Zambia:

In April 2012, I had the privilege of attending the forty fifth session of the Commission on Population and Development in New-York which was held under the theme: “Adolescents and youth”. It was very inspiring to be part of the Zambian Delegation on the negotiation team and working with other country delegations was a valuable experience that facilitated the exploration of regional perspectives.

Unfortunately, because Zambia fell under the African Group (which was chaired by Swaziland known to be a more conservative country in regard to sexual and reproductive rights –), it was quite difficult to bring out Zambian issues and in some instances Zambia did not agree with some of the issues raised by the African group. At one particular instance the delegates from Zambia, Ghana and Kenya disagreed with the rest of the African group and joined the like-minded group in Supporting Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) language.

During the CPD, the Zambian team worked closely with robust advocates in advancing the young people’s issues and their rights to reproductive knowledge and other SRH rights. It was very encouraging to learn about the growing youth outreach initiatives aimed at assisting young people navigate the complex world in which they live and make informed, healthy decisions for themselves.

One of the challenges faced during the meeting was that several ‘opposition groups’ dedicating themselves to describing comprehensive sexuality education as a danger to children and that it should not be included in the outcome agreement. The opposition distributed misleading and inaccurate statements about the “dangers” of abortion, contraception and comprehensive sexuality education and it was claimed that International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) were “pushing sexual rights for children as young as ten years old”.

It is my sincere hope that the CPD outcomes will help Zambia and other countries in creating a world where young people’s sexual and reproductive rights are fully respected and embraced. As Youth Vision Zambia, we are eager to ensure that people’s lives and health are no longer compromised in political negotiations. At this time in history, it is not acceptable that many adolescent girls and young women across the world still lack access to comprehensive sexuality education and integrated sexual and reproductive health services that empower young women and girls and enables them to live up to their fullest potentials.

Youth vision Zambia also hopes that the outcome document will eliminate all barriers, including legal barriers, which hinders adolescents and youth from accessing services that protect their wellbeing and health. The rates of unsafe abortions among young women and adolescent girls and the number of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion is unacceptable, and will only be reduced if governments commit to young women’s rights and guarantee access to safe abortion, thus embracing and respecting young people’s bodily integrity, autonomy, freedom, and dignity.

Read about the Norwegian youth delegate to the CPD, and former SAIH PresidentCairo programme of Action http://www.iisd.ca/cairo.html

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