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May 2011 iYAN Newsletter

May iYAN

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.

Sharing Our Passion

Featured blogs from International Year of Youth journalists

Universal Access in 5 minutes or less, by Jaevion in Jamaica

Jaevion explains what this important goal means for the global HIV epidemic. Read the blog

Love Spaces, by Roli in India

Roli wonders: is it a crime for a young man and woman to sit together in a park? Read the blog

Challenges in Accessing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Services in Africa, by Abongwa in Cameroon

Abongwa interviews a young activist from South Africa in this video, and learns her views on youth’s SRHR in South African and the African continent. To view the video, click here.

For How Long Till Our Policy Makers Decide Enough Have Suffered? by Taonga in Zambia

One young woman’s struggle with pregnancy and illegal herbal abortion, and young people’s desperate need for sexual and reproductive health information and services. Read the blog

What else is on Amplify? Hear from other international bloggers

MTV Ignites Change in Kenya, Zambia and Trinidad Tobago, by Richael

Can a TV show cross boundaries and change perceptions? Can it spark discussions and erase stereotypes? Most importantly, can it stop the spread of AIDS? Read the blog

What’s New at Advocates for Youth

Advocates’ International Year of Youth (IYY) journalist and staff raise youth voices at African Youth Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

From April 1-6, 2011, Advocates staff and Abongwa, an an International Year of Youth journalist (IYY), participated in the African Union Pre-Summit and Youth Forum, hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Young leaders from all over Africa came together to discuss and develop concrete messages and a Plan of Action to deliver to African Union Ambassadors. The delivery of these youth messages and the plan of action will inform the upcoming annual African Union Summit, to be hosted this July with the theme, “Accelerate Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.”

IYY journalist Abongwa from Cameroon conducted interviews with young leaders at the conference. He also wrote blogs on the progress that needs to be made to sustain development through youth leadership and empowerment in Africa, particularly regarding sexual and reproductive health issues.

To learn more about the meeting, visit www.africa-youth.org

To view an introduction video from Abongwa, click here.

To read all of Abongwa’s blogs, click here.

International Year of Youth (IYY) journalists from Jamaica and Ghana leverage new media at Mali Youth Summit on HIV/AIDS, hosted by UNAIDS

The Mali Youth Summit, held from April 15-17, 2011 united 150 young leaders from all over the world in a three-day meeting in Bamako, Mali. The purpose of the meeting was to explore opportunities to elevate and empower a “New Generation of Leadership” in the global response to HIV/AIDS. The Summit, organized by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), under the patronage of President Amadou Toumani Toure, was designed to link and strengthen existing youth networks across different regions and deepen their connections with the AIDS community. This Summit created a space for young people and youth organizations to mobilize and commit to holding national leaders accountable to their commitments at the upcoming High Level Meeting and its aftermath.

The objectives of the Summit were to:

  • Empower young people to lead the HIV prevention revolution.
  • Strengthen and forge networks between young people and youth-led organizations across the globe to strengthen and unite the youth and AIDS movements.
  • Strengthen the advocacy skills of young people by developing a concrete advocacy action plan for and by young people leading up to the High-Level Meeting.
  • Develop a Call to Action from young people at the Summit that can be used to empower young people and hold policy makers accountable for future progress on AIDS.

Advocates staff and two International Year of Youth journalists, Jaevion from Jamaica and Nana from Ghana, posted blogs throughout the Summit to capture the various sessions and discussions.

To read blogs from Jaevion, click here.

To read blogs from Nana, click here.

The Call to Action from the meeting can be found here:

For any questions about the Summit, Call to Action or how to advocate for young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, contact mimi@advocatesforyouth.org for more information.

Advocates’ staff pushes for young people’s rights at April civil society hearing leading up to the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June

Advocates worked in collaboration with Youth Coalition, the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), the World AIDS Campaign, the HIV Young Leaders Fund, and Youth R.I.S.E. to develop and disseminate key advocacy messages for youth for the Civil Society Hearing for the upcoming High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. The messages cover a range of key asks that include calling for the integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services for youth, comprehensive sexuality education and access to male and female condoms, and the engagement of young people in program and policy decision-making, among others.

You too can use and adapt these messages for your own advocacy efforts in your country to educate the UN mission about what young people need and want prioritized during the upcoming negotiations. They need to hear from you so call and request an appointment to meet with your UN mission now! To view the advocacy messages, click here.

In April, Advocates staff attended the Civil Society Hearing and collaborated with youth organizations to elevate youth issues at the Hearing. Advocates staff and other youth leaders used the advocacy messages to articulate points at the Hearing, speaking repeatedly upon being given the floor. Advocates and its colleague youth organizations succeeded in elevating youth issues within the context of the Hearing as well as in integrating youth into the demands being made on behalf of Civil Society. A report on the Hearing will be distributed to country delegations in order to inform ongoing negotiations for the new declaration that is to be agreed upon at the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June.

Advocates organizes with other civil society organizations to ensure meaningful youth engagement and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights at the 44th Commission on Population and Development

Three members of Advocates’ International Youth Leadership Council, along with staff, participated in this year’s Commission on Population and Development (CPD), held in April in New York City. The theme for the meeting was “Fertility, Reproductive Health, and Development.” Prior to the CPD, Advocates helped develop and submit a written statement, along with CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which demanded support for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services for youth.

During the CPD, Advocates partnered with CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, the Youth Coalition, the Global Youth Coalition on HIV and AIDS, and YouAct to organize a Youth Caucus. At the caucus, thirty youth from around the world strategized on youth engagement and developed three oral statements on young women’s health, comprehensive sexuality education, and youth leadership. One of Advocates’ International Youth Leadership Council members, Meredith, read the statement on young women and the others were read by young people from colleague youth organizations. They read the oral statements to the CPD Chair and the 75 country delegations. Advocates was also pleased that several statements that the US Government delivered during the CPD highlighted the importance of recognizing young people as assets and prioritizing their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including advocating for comprehensive sex education.

Advocates youth council members also tweeted actively during the meeting (see http://twitter.com/#!/AmplifyTweets
, #CPD44), served as a resource to country and civil society delegates that were supportive of youth sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth, conducted on-demand research to inform negotiations, and provided input into negotiated language. In the end, while advances in language for sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth were not secured, advocates succeeded in helping tp protect previously agreed upon language, which was seriously threatened throughout the negotiations. To view the final resolution for the 44th Commission on Population and Development, click here.

Tools You Can Use

Affirming the Rights of Young People: African Regional Agreements at Summits and Conferences
by Advocates for Youth

In sub-Saharan Africa, young people ages 10-24 make up a third of the population, and in some countries within the region, the proportion of young people is more than half of the total population. [1] These youth play a pivotal role in supporting the growth and development of the continent. Yet a lack of access to reproductive and sexual health information, services, and supplies puts the health and lives of many young people at serious risk.

This brief provides a summary of several African regional agreements that address young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Each regional agreement summarized in the publication outlines a brief overview, key points and articles that highlight young people’s SRHR and highlights the significance for young people to advocate in their own countries. The following regional agreements outlined include: African Youth Charter, the Maputo Plan of Action for the Operationalization of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Continental Policy Framework, Abuja Call for Accelerated Action Towards Universal Access to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Services in Africa; The Abuja Framework for Action for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.

The agreements described in this fact sheet are important tools for youth activists and adult allies working to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people within Africa. These agreements have shown that governments in Africa are increasingly recognizing the importance of prioritizing youth; however, much work needs to be done to hold leaders accountable to their commitments. Understanding the commitments that already exist is key to demanding that accountability and to identifying remaining policy gaps to advocate for in future negotiations.To read the full publication, click here.

The World’s Women and Girls 2011 Data Sheet
by Population Reference Bureau

Population Reference Bureau (PRB) has recently released a new publication, The World’s Women and Girls 2011 Data Sheet. This valuable resource presents the latest data on a wide variety of indicators on the socio-economic status of women and girls in more than 180 countries, with a focus on demography, reproductive health, education, work, and public life. A special section on overcoming barriers to gender equality is also featured. This publication is funded by USAID through the IDEA project. IDEA—Informing Decisionmakers to Act—increases support among policy audiences for effective health and population programs around the world.

The datasheet and related materials can be accessed online at PRB’s website or the datasheet may be ordered by emailing idea@prb.org.

Sports for Adolescent Girls
by Family Health International

Adolescence is a time when gender disparities between boys and girls become more pronounced. While many boys stay focused on school, girls often have more responsibilities at home. These responsibilities limit girls’ opportunities for maintaining social networks, and social isolation can contribute to increasing the risk of dropping out of school, marrying early, and being in situations that leave them vulnerable to pregnancy and HIV infection. This publication highlights sports as an intervention to empower adolescent girls, the changes in knowledge and attitudes and its effects on behaviors. Furthermore, the publication highlights successful girls-only programs, recommendations for future programs and indicators to measure success. To download the publication, click here.

Read All About It

Indonesia’s new HIV infections double over past five years

Although HIV prevalence in Indonesia is as low as 0.2 percent, the government and health experts are worried that newly confirmed cases have more than doubled to 4,158 in the five years leading up to 2010. The Health Minister, Endang Sedyaningsih, told Reuters that the government faces enormous opposition in the fight against AIDS in Indonesia—a country of 238 million people. He said, “We cannot put ads for condoms openly on television or promote their use, or people will say the Ministry of Health promotes promiscuity.”

Indonesia’s approach is in sharp contrast to the aggressive interventions taken in nearby Thailand, which implemented a high-profile “100 percent condom use campaign” in the early 1990s to rein in an explosive HIV epidemic. Read more here: With head in the sand, Indonesia struggles to tackle AIDS (Reuters)

India confronts practice of female feticide

India’s 2011 census recorded an alarming drop in the percentage of girls among India’s preschoolers. For every 1,000 boys aged up to 6 years old, the report counted 914 girls, a drop from 927 a decade ago. That’s the lowest ratio since India gained independence in 1947, said the preliminary census. It’s illegal in India to abort a child just because of its sex, but such abortions happen, often aided by illegal clinics.

“The reasons for high number of incidents of female feticide in India include a deep-rooted traditional son preference, continued practice of dowry and concern for the safety of the girl child and exploitation and abuse of women and girl children,” India’s Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told Parliament last month. Read more here: India combats sex-selective abortion as gender ratio loses balance (CNN)

Haitian women groups call to end rape epidemic

Life after Haiti’s earthquake has been especially difficult and dangerous for displaced women and girls. In addition to the ongoing crises of homelessness and cholera, a chronic emergency of sexual violence prevails in the settlements where hundreds of thousands still live, well over a year after the disaster.

Groups of Haitian women have been struggling to defend themselves, banding together to prevent assaults and now taking their case to a wider world. At a hearing on March 25 in Washington, DC, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a grass-roots group, Kofaviv, joined other human-rights advocates in pressing for an end to what they called a rape epidemic. Read more here: An Epidemic of Rape for Haiti’s Displaced (New York Times)

Birth Control Debate Grows in the Philippines

Buying a packet of condoms in a drugstore in this posh Manila suburb isn’t as straightforward as it might appear.”Do you have a prescription for that, sir?” the sales clerk at Mercury Drug asked a visitor recently as retirees waited in line for diabetes pills and other medication.

Welcome to the latest battleground in the Philippines’ culture wars: a row over whether this conservative, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country should introduce a family-planning program. Read more here: Birth-Control Debate Roils Philippines (Wall Street Journal) and also check out: Philippines Needs a Reproductive Health Policy – UN (Reuters)

Perceptions of sexual intimacy in Mexico City shift

In Mexico City, public affection has increasingly become a symbol of what experts describe as a city learning to loosen up. “When we were young, people would point and gawk at you for this kind of thing [public affection],” Mr. Ruiz said. “Now, there’s more acceptance.” Pride may be a better term. Two years ago, Mexico City actually beat the world record for simultaneous smooching when 39,897 people locked lips downtown.

“What’s happening is that the undercurrent is becoming more official,” said Luis Perelman, president of the Mexican federation for sexuality education and sexology. “We’re seeing less doublespeak.” Read more here: In Mexico City, Kissing Tells of More Than Romance (New York Times)

The United Nations (UN) declares the 30-year anniversary of AIDS as “a moment of truth”

With the war on AIDS nearing its 30th anniversary, the UN recently declared “a moment of truth” had come for new strategies to address failures and put a brake on costs that are now unsustainable. The 30th anniversary of AIDS is generally recognized as June 5.

“We have a unique opportunity to take stock of the progress and to critically and honestly assess the barriers that keep us shackled to a reality in which the epidemic continues to outpace the response,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report issued in Nairobi. Read more here: After 30 years, war on AIDS at ‘moment of truth’ (American Free Press)

My Voice Counts

To Zero & The Road to Universal Access—Youth Leaders Gather in Kingston to Develop a Call to Action

Twenty youth leaders from across Jamaica met for a day-long consultation on April 9, 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica, to critically assess if zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015 is really attainable. The consultation, entitled “Getting To Zero & The Road to Universal Access,” was convened by the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) with technical assistance from UNAIDS Jamaica.

The consultation revealed young people’s desire for an opportunity to truly contribute to decision-making that affects their lives and future, They discussed and reviewed current efforts and gaps in the national HIV/AIDS response and discussed appropriate strategies to create a more enabling environment to reduce young people’s vulnerability to HIV transmission and AIDS related deaths. Participants also discussed human rights issues and how stigma and discrimination prevent access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for the nation’s youth.

When the curtains came down on this consultation, the youth had developed a five-point plan which they hope will reach the Jamaican delegation to the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. The plan includes recommendations for the government of Jamaica as well as international donors and civil society, including the private sector and non-governmental, community, and faith-based organizations. For example, the plan includes a call for resources to be allocated to ensure that the interests and wellbeing of youth are addressed; that youth be brought fully into the planning and designing of policies, programs and interventions aimed at reducing the epidemic; and that the rights of all youth, in particular young girls, young people living with HIV, young people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are protected through a revised National Youth Policy and in the Jamaican constitution. To read the five-point plan, click here.

United Nation Population Fund’s (UNFPA) new blogosphere: Conversations for a Better World

Conversations for a Better World is a social platform, supported by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that allows young people to raise global issues and find solutions. Conversations is all about ‘the power of we’ as well as a forum to identify solutions, progress and forward-looking ideas for a better world. The idea is to get people talking about how we can co-create a better world, whether it’s about climate change, HIV/AIDS, poverty, violence against women—you name it. If we want to tackle the global challenges of our time, we need a lot of people to start talking. To learn more about how to “join the conversation,” click here.

Check out a blog from Nikki on the film, “Let’s Talk About Sex” here.

Join the Amplify family! Advocates’ blogosphere for sexual and reproductive health and rights

Amplify, a project of Advocates for Youth, is the youth activist website and community blog that is focused on changing society’s negative approach to sexual health and reproductive rights.

Amplify is an online community working together for a larger cause—the move that you, as young people, have to lead. When it comes to sexual health, reproductive justice, and making sure that the rights of young people—all young people, everywhere—are respected by those in power…Well, there’s an awful lot of work to do!

Join the Amplify family! You can write your own blogs/vlogs and comment on others! Click here.

Learn more about our campaigns in Ethiopia, Jamaica, Nigeria and soon a page on Nepal.

Be a fan of Amplify on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amplifyyourvoice

Find Amplify on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/AmplifyTweets

If you have any difficulties joining Amplify, just email mimi@advocatesforyouth.org.

You mean that I can submit an essay and get a free Advocates for Youth notebook?

YOUR voice is an essential part of what makes this newsletter a SUCCESS. Please submit your stories to share with other youth activists from around the world! If you are one of the FIRST 10 iYAN members to submit an essay that follows the guidelines below, you will WIN a blue Advocates for Youth notebook and pen (to write more essays, of course!).

Here are the guidelines for writing an essay:

  • Keep your essay to no more than 500 words.
  • Use language that is simple and easy for non-native English speakers to read.
  • Write about sexual and reproductive issues that you care about and/or what you are doing to make a difference. Share your experiences working on sexual and reproductive health issues and policies—tell your story. What’s going on with access to contraception and family planning services for youth, abortion, gender disparities, maternal mortality, traditional harmful practices, HIV/AIDS, stigma and homophobia, etc.? What are the challenges facing young people in your country? What are the challenges for you as an activist? Why did you get involved in this movement to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people? What is working to improve programs and policies and young people’s sexual and reproductive health?

Also, please note that:

  • If you have a photo, would like us to include it with your essay, and can send it via email, please do! It’s okay if you do not have a photo, but we would like to bring a face to your words when we have the chance.
  • Advocates for Youth edits all published materials, so we will send you the revised draft for your approval before it is featured in the newsletter. We want to make sure that you are happy with the final product as well!
  • When you submit an essay, it may not appear right away in the next issue but we will be sure to include it in the next possible newsletter.
  • Even if you submitted an essay, you can still send others for upcoming issues of the newsletter.
  • You will receive an email by the next iYAN edition as to whether or not you are one of the first 10 people to submit an essay.
  • If you have questions on how to submit your essay, please contact Mimi at mimi@advocatesforyouth.org. Do it soon!! You could be one of the first 10!

Coming Up

World Refugee Day, June 20

“On World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm the importance of solidarity and burden-sharing by the international community. Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.”
-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for World Refugee Day 2010

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 20th as World Refugee Day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world. Since then, World Refugee Day has become an annual commemoration marked by a variety of events in over a hundred countries. This year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will commemorate World Refugee Day to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees world-wide.

In most cases, armed conflict leads to the formation of large groups of refugees. When conflict subjects civilian refugees to food shortage, displacement, and poverty, a “complex emergency” is often the result. Among other obstacles, refugees constitute one of the most difficult populations to reach with health prevention and care services, including young refugees who may be more reluctant to seek out services. The combination of these factors increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, maternal death, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Typically, reproductive and sexual health risks are greater under crisis conditions, which coincide with limited access to reproductive and sexual health information and services.

Here are some statistics that illustrate the vulnerability of young refugees with regard to their sexual and reproductive health:

  • More than 40 million people are currently displaced by armed conflict and human rights abuses. At least 8 million are young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • Extreme poverty, exposure to violence and vulnerability to sexual abuse pose a grave threat to the reproductive health of refugee women and girls.
  • Iraqi women have reported that refugee families are delaying having children due to their difficult circumstances, and access to contraceptives is a challenge for poor, unmarried and adolescent refugees.
  • Exceptionally high rates of early pregnancy and childbirth have been documented in some refugee settings. A study of adolescent pregnancies in Congolese refugee camps in Tanzania found that almost 30 percent of all births at one health facility involved girls between the ages of 14 and 18.
  • A UN survey found that girls in war-torn southern Sudan in 2004 were more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than to finish primary school.
  • A survey by Colombian NGO Profamilia found that displaced girls and young women aged 13 to 19 had the highest rate of pregnancy and child bearing in the country for their age group (30% versus 19% for their non-displaced counterparts).
  • Data from a clinic on the Thai-Burma border in 2003 showed that 13 percent of 337 patients receiving care for complication of abortion were adolescents.

Do you want others to know about the particular challenges facing young refugees in your country or around the world? Would you like to organize a World Refugee Day event in your community?

Here are some ways you can organize an Event:

  • Invite a former refugee to speak at your school, church, and community center to share their experiences.
  • Volunteer at a local refugee resettlement agency to help newly arrived refugees.
  • Ask a teacher to dedicate the week of June 14 – 20th to World Refugee Week to discuss the word “refugee” in the classroom.
  • Host a World Refugee Day “house party” where you might show the movie “Hotel Rwanda” or another movie that shows the plight of refugees, like “Beyond Borders,” “I am David,” or “Return to Afghanistan.”
  • Serve a dish typical in another country or prepare an international meal with friends (see recipe ideas or use your own).
  • Set up a World Refugee Day discussion at your home, place of worship, or community center.
  • Wear light blue (the international color of UN Aid workers) on World Refugee Day (June 20) and talk to friends about why you are wearing blue that day.
  • Invite 10 or more of your friends to subscribe to UNHCR Insider Update, their weekly email newsletter about refugee issues around the world.

Organize a Fundraiser by:

  • Selling local crafts or food
  • Providing a service like washing cars
  • Raffle tickets for a prize donated by a community or local business
  • Auction used and collectible items
  • Set up a display table/booth on campus to distribute UNHCR materials
  • Form a Refugee Care Club with friends and fellow students to raise awareness

To read more information about World Refugee Day, check out this website!

To check out some great resources specific to refugee women and young people, go here:

The Women’s Refugee Commission

The Reproductive Health in Crisis Consortium

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