The fact of having a vital discussion with policymakers and decisionmakers is not just only enough. We as young leaders need to collaborate with our fellow young advocates and researchers to advance evidence-based advocacy for increased action and accountability to implement existing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), HIV and gender equality commitments. The collaboration also can stimulate the sharing of best practices, challenges, experiences, and suggested innovative solutions to inform laws, policies, and programs and to strengthen their ability to claim their rights and exercise youth-led accountability.
The online engagement with Speakers of National Parliaments to respond to young people’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) challenges and needs in times of COVID-19 pandemic which was done on 22nd June 2020, had a lot of meaningful results to the works that we do as young leaders on advocating for SRHR.
Among the positive side is to strengthen advocacy among all relevant decision-makers, including governments, parliaments, development partners such as UNAIDS, UNFPA, Restless Development for increased access to comprehensive sexuality education and affordable, equitable, quality and integrated adolescent and youth-friendly SRHR, HIV and GBV services. This includes the unmet need for contraception, safe abortion, and menstrual health.
Also, the online platform acts as a friendly and safe space for the young advocates to raise their key concerns and seek accountability to the decision-makers. Through freely asking questions and clarifications and moreover suggesting various innovative solutions on some of the SRHR challenges that they face without worries or fear of looking like just stubborn young people rather regarded as young advocates who are really seeking accountability.
I was impressed with the act of putting young advocates as speakers and moderators to lead the narrative of the discussions based on their actual young people's experience and vision. This stimulates the improvement of strategic partnerships and fostering collaborations with decision-makers. Such as young parliamentarians and supporting them with evidence and data for them to advocate for the domestication of global and regional commitments through their inclusion in national laws and policies, allocation of resources to ensure their implementation at scale, and strengthened oversight mechanisms.
‘’The youths are the present and the future. They have to participate in every decision that affects their life and especially on the matter of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights’’- Hon. Speaker, Adv. Jacob Francis Mudenda of Zimbabwe said during the online engagement with Speakers of National Parliaments to respond to young people’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) challenges and needs in times of COVID-19 pandemic.
I do send my sincere request and to remind the decision-makers to live by their promises of advocating and serving for the interest of the community especially adolescents girls and young women. ’The Youth are the present and the future’ ’it won’t be next reality if the decision-makers won’t have a political will to make such words a living truth. I do bold urge them to accelerate their promises to respond to young people’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) challenges and needs in times of COVID-19 pandemic in more pace than ever.
Furthermore, we have to influence the minds of young people on how best they can live with the new normal. COVID-19 is a crisis with no doubt. And with no doubt also young people have the potentials of moving forward regardless of that. Hence making success to young people’s initiatives on promoting the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Therefore making adolescents and young people especially young girls and women to live to their full potentials. And resulting in reaping the demographic dividend of the Africa continent.
The SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF), in partnership with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNESCO, African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN), Restless Development and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), have shown the practical example of how working in partnership means for the greater good. This partnership has to be taken as an active example of how youth initiatives and youth networks across the region have to work together in advocating for delivering on political commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), HIV, and gender equality in the SADC region through youth-led accountability.