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MEANINGFUL YOUTH ENGAGEMENT IN SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH RIGHTS

African youth face profound challenges that impede their health, social well-being, and ability to influence policymaking. Despite now being more than half the population in most countries, young people in Africa are often sidelined in decision-making processes that directly impact their lives. This exclusion leads to policies and programs, especially those related to SRHR, that fail to address their unique needs and aspirations, perpetuating cycles of poverty, poor health, and social inequities. Empowering African youth to lead on SRHR is not merely an option but a necessity. As a young Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocate and leader in Kenya, these are the strategies that I’ve found are necessary for meaningful youth engagement:


Create Youth-Led Initiatives

Establish forums where young people feel safe and valued to express their views and questions and participate in learning. Provide financial and technical support to youth-led organizations and projects focused on SRHR. I call on leaders to Commit to Change for more positive SRHR, including integrating youth perspectives into health policy and implementation, investing in youth development, and ensuring resources are allocated to health, especially SRHR. Ensure youth are leading the discussion, not just “sitting at the table.”


Promote SRHR Education

Invest in programs that equip youth with the skills needed to engage effectively in society while also protecting and promoting their health and well-being. This critically includes SRHR. With an understanding of their health and wellness, young people will build strong networks, communities and families. SRHR education fosters a sense of responsibility, supporting youth to model and promote sexual and reproductive health and wellness, as well as advocate to equitable access to prevention and treatment.


Facilitate Access to Information

Ensure young people have access to information about their rights, especially around health and education on SRHR, so their voices and needs are addressed. African youth frequently encounter barriers to healthcare. Opportunities to access information and exchange freely result in safe youth who can model safe and equitable behaviors and advocate for quality services and information. Young people bring innovative ideas and fresh perspectives that can drive improved health and well-being.


Encourage Dialogue

Foster communication between young people and diverse generations to bridge gaps in understanding, especially around SRHR. Graça Machel, a prominent advocate for children and youth, said, "It is the older generation’ to empower young people to be the change-makers of their own destiny." Cross-generational engagement ensures that social and health policies reinforce positive economic outcomes while reflecting a diversity of needs and realities, leading to more responsive and engaged communities and systems for SRHR.


Author:

Fahe Kerubo is a sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) Youth Advocate and gender issues activist. Fahe feels strongly that by addressing the barriers that marginalized youth face and creating inclusive spaces for their engagement, we can harness their potential for positive change. With years of experience as a writeller on humanitarian issues, Fahe is particularly interested in inclusion, diversity and youth leadership and lives in Nairobi, Kenya. 



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