Adolescents and youth Voices count in the 2030 SDGs Agenda

Patrick Mwesigye

May 18th 2017

Kampala Uganda

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As the world community continues to devise strategies for successful implementation of the SDGs agenda, its paramount that intensive investment is done in  adolescent girls and young women’s health, education, social and economic development as this is key for improving their survival and well-being and critical for the success of the  sustainable development goals agenda.

Meeting the SDGs’s significant commitment of ‘leave no one behind’, will require us as countries to pay attention to the marginalization and challenges that women, children and adolescents face at households and public decision-making and devise strategies to address these challenges as well as meet and address their needs and interests, and ensure that they are better represented in national development plans and programmes.

In the implementation of Agenda 2030, it is time to act and eliminate established power dynamics, structural inequalities and social norms that keep adolescent girls and women, in particular, from realizing their rights and accessing the critical services they need.  There is clear and increasing evidence that meaningful engagement of citizens, including women, girls and adolescents in policy design contributes to improving quality of services and to increasing the uptake of services which in turn leads to improved citizen’s quality of life and wellbeing. Adolescents must participate and be heard in decision making and the development of policies and programmes that affect them. Their needs and rights cannot be overlooked any longer.

With over 200 young people in attendance the Pre – 2017 World Health Assembly, National Adolescents and Youth Symposium on SDGs was held today on 18th May 2017 in Kampala organised by Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum and World Vision Uganda, with growing momentum around citizen-led accountability across the world, to feed into discussions at the May 2017 World Health Assembly.  The symposium sought to share best practices from citizen participation in Agenda 2030 implementation, particularly highlighting the role and contribution of adolescents and young people, and to provide a platform for dialogue between young people and high level policy makers. The symposium feature discussions and dialogue on the multiple obstacles that underpin young people’s opportunities to realize their full potential, ranging from human rights violations, health, social and cultural harmful practices among others.

Young people at the symposium listen in to the discussions and contribute to the discussions.

Additionally, the event highlighted lessons and recommendations coming out of grassroots citizens’ hearings and citizen participation initiatives that we have been conducting with young people across the country as part of a local-to – national/global feedback approach.

Throughout the discussions, young people noted the need to have their unique health needs dominating centre stage of all discussions at the 2017 World Health Assembly discussions on Progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and on Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

Key highlights of the discussions;

  • Health investments need to focus on the fundamental rights of women and girls to decide freely and for themselves about their sexual lives, including whether, when, with whom and how many children they have.
  • Ensure adolescents have access to comprehensive sexuality education so that they are knowledgeable about their own health, develop life skills, and know when and where to obtain health services.
  • Develop/provide a package of information, counselling, diagnostic, treatment and care services that fulfils the needs of all adolescents, through facilities, referral, outreach and other innovative mechanisms
  • Train healthcare providers in technical competencies for adolescent health, and to respect, protect, and fulfil adolescent’s rights to information, privacy, confidentiality, non-discrimination, respect and choice.
  • Invest in health facilities to ensure a clean, welcoming, private and confidential environment with the right equipment, medicines, supplies and technology.
  • Ensure that adolescents can access a full range of contraceptive methods by ensuring that providers have been trained, commodities are available, and demand generation activities address myths and misconceptions around certain methods.
  • Eliminate legal, legislative, financial, and third-party consent barriers to adolescents receiving information, counselling and services, irrespective of age, marital status, parity etc.
  • Engage adolescents in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of programmes, and in certain aspects of health information and service provision.
  • Collect and analyze new and existing data on adolescent health, disaggregating by sex, age (10-14,15-19), marital and rural/peri-urban/urban location.
  • Map and evaluate existing adolescent SRHR programmes, assessing their coverage, costs and effectiveness.
  • Use data to inform adolescent SRHR policy and programming, and to ensure that information and services are reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable adolescents.
  • Invest in strategies beyond health that protect and empower adolescents, such as keeping girls in school particularly into and through secondary, ensure adolescents have the necessary life skills and social support to make safe, voluntary transitions to adulthood and help bring an end to harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM.
  • Build support for adolescent SRHR among parents, community members, community organizations, religious leaders, and teachers; and challenge social norms and beliefs that undermine both girls’ and boys’ SRHR.
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