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March 2015 iYAN Newsletter

Advocates for Youth Newsletter 

March 2015

Advocates’ International Youth Activist Network (iYAN) consists of youth activists and adult allies from low and middle-income countries who are working to influence policies and programs in their countries and internationally to support improved youth reproductive and sexual health. Members of the iYAN connect to share information about their work; are provided information about scholarships and networking opportunities; get up-to-date information on downloadable advocacy materials and tool kits; and receive a monthly newsletter with information on advocacy, youth activism, and mobilization on important issues like sex education, access to contraception, and prevention of adolescent maternal mortality and HIV.

What’s Going on at Advocates for Youth?

Advocates Engages and Advocates at the Commission on the Status of Women.

Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board Member Allison with Parliamentarians from the European Women’s Parliamentarian Forum at the CSW all wearing Our Moment Scarves for Girls’ Rights

Advocates for Youth staff and members of our Girl Engagement Advisory Board and International Youth Leadership Council attended the 59th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) held this month in New York. In addition to Advocates’ delegation of staff and young leaders attending the CSW, this year Advocates was also honored that Urooj Arshad, Advocates’ International Youth Health and Rights Associate Director, was selected to serve on the United States delegation to the CSW.

Advocates’ staff Urooj Arshad served on the Unites States Delegation to this year’s CSW

The focus of this year’s CSW was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. That said, thoughts about the post-2015 agenda were also driving discussions about gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and sexual and reproductive health and rights as we move steadily toward those negotiations.

While at CSW, Advocates:

  • hosted a side event in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women, YWCA, and Let Girls Lead, entitled, Adolescent Girls: The Promise of Beijing. The event was served as a call to action for world leaders to prioritize the health and rights of adolescent girls living in poverty. Approximately 70 people were in attendance and one of Advocates’ International Youth Activist Network members from Nigeria, Kike, spoke about the need to meaningfully engage girls and ensuring their prioritization in the Post-2015 development agenda.
  • helped plan and engaged actively in an all-day Girl Consultation meeting hosted by the Coalition on Adolescent Girls. Attended by over 70 participants, including dozens of adolescent girls from across the globe, the meeting meeting focused on gathering concrete lessons learned and strategies from adolescent girls and adult allies regarding meaningful engagement of adolescent girls in program, policy and research efforts to advance girls’ rights and well-being.

Adolescent girl activists, including Advocates’ Girl Engagement Advisory Board member, Allison, at a media training held immediately prior to the CSW


  • joined girl advocates for a day long media training where they received training on how to effectively engage members of the media.
  • met with members of the EU Parliament who were present at CSW to discuss the prioritization of girls in the Post-2015 agenda.
  • distributed hundreds of Our Moment Campaign materials to delegates and girl advocates to raise awareness and advocate for the need to prioritize girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, education safety, economic security, and citizenship within the post-2015 development agenda.

Contentious issues during the CSW included lack of civil society engagement and influence due to the fact that the political declaration was negotiated and finalized prior to the start of the meeting. As such, Advocates signed onto a statement expressing deep disappointment on the process leading up to the adoption of this year’s Political Declaration and requesting that all UN processes include meaningful participation of civil society. Organized by the LBTI Caucus, the statement was signed by 54 non-governmental organizations and activists working for the promotion and protection of human rights and empowerment of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or intersex status. Advocates also signed onto a statement, along with over 300 organizations, which also expressed outrage over the CSW Political Declaration process. The statement, titled “Nothing about us without us,” made very clear that women’s and feminist organizations do not come to CSW to just attend side events, noting “We come to the CSW to hold our governments to account to the commitments they have made to guarantee gender equality, eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against us and achieve the full realization of all of our human rights.” Advocates is proud to join the large and growing chorus of civil society organizations demanding to be heard at the United Nations.

As for the Political Declaration itself, it did reaffirm existing commitments to achieve the ambition of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. However it failed to integrate gender equality and empowerment and human rights throughout the document and only blandly recognized the critical and unequivocal role of women’s and feminist organizations have played in advocating for gender equality and the human rights of women and girls. Ultimately, we need to do better leading up to the post-2015 development agenda to make sure that adolescent girls’ rights, LGBT youth rights, and young women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights don’t get ignored.

My Voice Counts!

You Can Still Check Out the Our Moment Campaign to Advance Girls’ Rights in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.This month the Our Moment Campaign helped raise awareness of girls’ rights at the Commission on the Status of Women. Adolescent girls, young women, and adult allies from around the world wore the signature scarf of the campaign and distributed campaign materials focused on health, education, safety, economic security, and citizenship. But the campaign does not end there and there’s plenty more to do before the new Sustainable Development Goals are finalized!

So whether you are working to raise awareness in your own community, among your country’s leadership, or at the next UN meeting, the Commission on Population and Development, this is Our Moment to make a difference and to demand commitments and investments that support a world where girls’ rights are no longer violated, where they can choose if, when and how many children to have and if and who to marry; where they can stay in school; where they can participate actively in society; and where they can engage in opportunities to earn income and live to their full potential!

Check out the Our Moment campaign materials and use them far and wide to make this your moment to realize a world that recognizes girls’ power and prioritizes their rights.

To access information about the Our Moment campaign and materials, go here.

Second Round of AmplifyChange Grants in Support of Civil Society Advocacy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Launched in New York by the Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen and H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary, AmplifyChange seeks to ‘amplify’ the voice of southern civil society in advocating for sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly as it relates to the most neglected aspects of the International Conference on Population and Development agenda.

The priority areas of AmplifyChange therefore are:

  • Combatting gender-based violence, including sexual violence and female genital mutilation
  • Increasing access to comprehensive reproductive health services for socially and economically marginalized and vulnerable
  • Addressing the causes of unsafe abortion including decriminalization of abortion and supporting women’s rights to safe and legal abortion
  • Promoting the sexual health of young boys and girls, including comprehensive sexuality education and addressing child and early marriage
  • Challenging stigma, discrimination, attitudes and laws that undermine human rights, including on grounds of gender or sexual orientation of LGBTI individuals

AmplifyChange operates with four types of grants: Network, Strengthening, Innovation and Strategic grants. Geographically, AmplifyChange focuses primarily on sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The second call for proposals opens April 6 and focuses on Strengthening, in support a particular, usually time limited, project that seeks to engage and contribute to bringing about change in one or more of the priority themes of AmplifyChange.

For more information, go to: www.amplifychange.org

Tools You Can Use

Promoting equality and safety in schools infographic by Plan International, Because I am a Girl, and ICRW ights by IPPThis infographic highlights data from research across 5 countries in Asia on the prevalence and nature of school-related gender-based violence, such as that in Pakistan, nearly 50% of violence at school was committed by a school staff member.

Are Schools Safe and Equal Spaces for Girls and Boys in Asia? by the International Center for Research on Women and Plan International. The report describes the shockingly high rates at which children in Asia experience school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV). Seven out of every ten children surveyed in Asia have experienced some form of violence in or on the way to school. In Indonesia and Pakistan, 84 and 43 percent of students, respectively, report that they have experienced violence. The research shows that violence in schools is rife and is perpetrated by teachers and school staff, among students themselves and by family members and recommendations are provided to address these challenges.

To read the report, go here.

Post-2015 Advocacy Toolkit by Girls Not Brides.The year 2015 is critical for international development as governments decide the global development priorities for the coming 15 years. At the end of the year, the post-2015 development framework will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals to reduce global poverty. If we want to achieve sustainable development, ending child, early and forced marriage must be a priority in the new framework.

The Girls Not Brides secretariat has developed a post-2015 advocacy toolkit for members and other organizations that wish to encourage their governments to support a target to end child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 development agenda. The toolkit provides an overview of the post-2015 process and the opportunities for action, a guide to create and implement your own national advocacy plan, and template worksheets and sample messaging framework that you can tailor to your national context

To access the toolkit in English | French

Coming up

April 22nd is International Mother Earth Day!The proclamation of 22 April as International Mother Earth Day is an acknowledgement that the Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenance. It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.

You can use this day to honor the earth and to urge others to take actions that support the environment, including promoting young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Did you know that there are 222 million women around the world with an unmet need for contraception and that in some regions young women ages 15-19 are twice as likely have an unmet need for contraception than women over twenty?

If you care about young people, women’s rights, reproductive health, climate change, and the environment, the good news is that fulfilling the unmet need for contraception is a highly cost-effective way of addressing climate change. When women have power over if, when and how many children to have, communities are better equipped to adapt to climate change and contribute to a more sustainable environment.

What can you do?

  • Host a community event to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our environment and ensuring that everyone can exercise their right to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
  • Engage with coalitions or organizations working in your community to advance environmental sustainability and/or sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Identify and request a meeting with community leaders and/or decision-makers to inform them about the connections between climate change and the importance of ensuring that young people can access sexual and reproductive health education and services.
  • Blog on Advocates’ youth activist website, amplifyyourvoice.org, and write about why you care about the earth, how you see the connections between youth sexual and reproductive health and rights and environmental sustainability, or about what you think governments and communities should be doing to make a difference.

For background information about this day, you can go here

You can also check out Advocates’ fact sheet about sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change here: English | Spanish

Read All About It!

Plan to fight HIV/AIDS among adolescents launched. A new platform of action to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic among adolescents was launched in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday.

UNAIDS, and the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) are partnering with several UN and other agencies as well as youth movements in the new effort against AIDS.

To read this article and listen to the announcement about the plan, go here.

Parliament human rights report addresses LGBTI criminalisation, trans rights and same-sex unions. Last week, the European Parliament voted its annual report on human rights in the world. The report takes account of the situation of human rights, including of LGBTI people, and makes recommendations accordingly.

To read this article, go here.

Birds and bees: How the government might finally get it right on adolescent sex. South African adolescents are having sex young, as much as parents, teachers and schools might not want to face that fact. Last week, one announcement by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe went virtually unnoticed: that the Cabinet has just approved a strategy plan for dealing with adolescent sexual health and reproductive rights. It’s a plan which is being hailed by those in the know as both necessary and highly progressive.

To read this article, go here.

Brilliant 23-year-old saves mothers and babies – one text at a time. Like many 23-year-olds, Alain Nteff has big dreams. What sets him apart from most, however, is what he’s actually trying to achieve: wiping out maternal mortality.

The Cameroonian entrepreneur is the co-founder of Gifted Mom, a mobile health platform that uses low-cost technology to help mothers and pregnant women access medical advice in out-of-the-way, rural communities.

To read this article, go here.

Malawi: Born With HIV, Grappling With Adolescence.Due to the success of antiretroviral programmes in Malawi, many more children born with HIV are not only reaching, but also thriving in adolescence.

They comprise a complex group with special healthcare and psychological needs which extend beyond routine clinic visits. These adolescents need support in areas such as disclosure and adherence to treatment.

To read this article, go here.

Sierra Leone: CARL Expresses Shock Over Increase in SGBV Cases. Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has expressed dismay over the increase in the rate of sexual and gender-based violence cases against women across Sierra Leone.

Tommy blamed the state for allowing such a trend to continue due to lack of proper structures and support for institutions that should be championing the course of justice for victims.

To read this article, go here.

Anti-FGM campaigners urge focus on girls at risk in remote areas. Campaigners against female genital mutilation (FGM) called for renewed action to reach the girls most at risk from the practice.

On Thursday, the campaign’s leading advocates gathered across the street from the UN headquarters in New York City, which has been hosting this week’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, to discuss the next steps needed to end the practice, a procedure that removes part, or all, of the external female genitalia.

To read this article, go here.

This male rapper in Burkina Faso is trying to help stop female genital mutilation. Many of us can be sqeamish when it comes to discussions about women’s sexual health. There’s one topic I always have trouble talking about: The practice of FGM, female genital mutilation, or excision.

Of course it’s hard to discuss. We’re talking about women in many parts of the world who, at a young age, have the most sensitive parts of their sex organs removed — and their mothers and fathers allow it. In some cultures, it’s a tradition.

To read this article and to watch Smokey’s music video, go here.

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