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
Burying our Heads in the Sand
By Ahmad and Qadeer, Pakistan
Contrary to common belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand when faced with apparent danger. According to experts at the San Diego Zoo when faced with an unavoidable threat an ostrich, “…flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it.” The point here is not to discuss the unique behavior patterns of ostriches, but to establish that there is an element of pragmatism inherent in the way these over-sized birds deal with danger.
Sadly, however, we Pakistanis have a decidedly different and less practical way of addressing the many problems our nation is currently facing. Rather than tackle a particular issue head on and delve into its context, we prefer to run around in circles, indulging in unproductive debates around the merits of an issue, never realizing that this approach serves to only aggravate the problem at hand. This tendency is apparent in the prevalence of conspiracy theories throughout Pakistan regarding the causes of religious extremism that have, to a great extent, prevented society at large from recognizing terrorism as a domestic problem requiring primarily localized solutions.
This sexual health crisis –after years of being ignored on a social and institutional level –has attained a critical mass, so to speak. It has severely impacted the lives of a majority of the population –especially women, children and adolescents –and cannot be ignored any longer, especially in light of international recognition of the link between the promotion of sexual health and the reduction of poverty in developing countries.
To read more, go to: K://ID/iYSO/iYAN/iYAN2010/November/Burying our Heads in the SandwtihMimiedits.doc
The state of affairs of women in Pakistan is caused by the pervasive discriminatory gender norms that perpetuate gender inequality in society. Gender inequity, which is defined by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, of Boston College as, “A social order in which women and men share the same opportunities and the same constraints on full participation in both the economic and the domestic realm,” is reflected in Pakistan by the fact that only 33% of women (10 years and older) have completed primary education. Furthermore, the total number of employed women is nearly four times less than that of men. Discriminatory gender norms –which restrict mobility, societal representation, and access to health and education services for women –have the combined effect of objectifying women (as means of reproduction, housework and sexual gratification) and institutionalizing gender inequity in Pakistan.
In countries where women have to survive and function in the midst of such circumstances on a daily basis, their sexual and reproductive health and rights are likely to be blatantly disregarded. For instance, the existence of mobility restrictions on women not only severely limits their participation in the economy and society in the long-run but is also used as a socially justifiable pretext for violence against women. However, the primary factor of gender-based violence is the objectification of women in Pakistani society, especially in rural areas, where an overwhelming majority of such cases are reported. It has been reported that women are arbitrarily bludgeoned to death by male relatives for reasons as trivial as not serving a timely cup of tea. The perpetrators of such violence are not likely to feel much of a moral twinge for their actions, as the notion of social control of women –no matter how repressive –is deeply ingrained in their minds due to the environment in which they have grown. They often get away scot-free thus giving them the resolve and experience to add a bit of ‘creative flair’ to their brutality. Among the 1,321 instances of gender-based violence reported in the first quarter of 2008 alone, there was an overwhelming number of cases of women being buried alive, tortured, gang-raped and burnt with acid.
Additionally, 83 maternal deaths take place in Pakistan, on average, every day. Further, it is estimated that over 80 percent of these deaths occur due to completely preventable causes, such lack of trained birth attendants at birth. Only 34 percent of all deliveries in Pakistan are attended by trained health professionals. Regretfully, the grim picture painted by these facts is hardly given the attention it warrants by both the media and civil society.
Sadly, women are not the only demographic that is exposed to increased sexual health risks in Pakistan: the sorry sexual health state of adolescents in Pakistan is undeniable and has been highlighted consistently by the Ministry of Youth Affairs as an area of action, although little has been done in this regard. And just as women’s sexual health issues are intrinsically linked with gender norms and cultural practices, an analysis of the root causes of the poor sexual health status of young people in Pakistan also reveals the existence of cultural norms as a key factor in young people’s prevalent sexual health status. As a result of these cultural norms, which discourage open discussion of sex and sexuality-related issues in all spheres of public life to protect the “moral fabric” of society –the youth of Pakistan are not provided age-appropriate sexual health information through responsible channels.
According to a research study conducted by the World Population Foundation on the “Status of Sexual Health and Rights of Young People in Pakistan,” young people are at increased risk of, “…abuse, exploitation and disease.” It is not uncommon for young people to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors –such as having unprotected sexual debut with sex-workers –which puts them at risk for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Another effect of the aforementioned cultural norms is that they legitimize the denial of sexual and reproductive health services for young people with blatant disregard for their sexual well-being and needs. This denial of services is reflected in the same study, which concludes that the right to healthcare and health protection is among the four most infringed upon sexual rights of young people in Pakistan. Despite the strong case that can be made for provision of sexual and reproductive health education and services for youth, there has been strong social opposition to such ideas in the past. For example, Dawood Public School of Karachi was closed down by the Ministry of Education in August 2009 for providing sexual health education to its secondary level students, after pressure exerted by right-wing groups. It is highly likely that the provision of sexual health counseling and services would also evoke a similar response.
Hence, it is clear that the sexual health and rights status of the Pakistani population –particularly women and adolescents –is one that can no longer be ignored. The fact that the present situation derives from ignorance and out-dated cultural norms and practices make it imperative upon us to extract our heads from the sand and begin open, respectful, and informative discussions about sexual health rights issues. Such dialogue will not only assist the restructuring of the cultural order to become more responsive to the needs of women and children, but will also provide the added advantage of making civil society an important stakeholder in the integration of sexual and reproductive health rights throughout Pakistan. Furthermore, civil society engagement, in particular, will have a significant bearing on the success and sustainability of all governmental and non-governmental efforts to respond to the need for sexual health services among youth.
“Youth Voices Count”: MSM and Transgender Youth in the Asian-Pacific Region Discuss Priorities for Prevention
The World AIDS Campaign and Hivos organized the first Asian-Pacific regional MSM and transgender and HIV Youth consultation in Bangkok. From September 1-3, 40 youth from 14 countries gathered in the Thai capital to discuss HIV and AIDS. MSM and transgender youth are experiencing a steep rise in HIV infections yet are often marginalized and not able to raise priorities that matter to them. The World AIDS Campaign and Hivos brought these youth representatives together to share and learn from each other’s experiences and to formulate recommendations on how the issues of MSM and transgender youth can be better addressed in HIV programs.
To read the consultation paper, click here:
To listen and watch videos from the meeting, click here:
This Month’s Featured Blogs on Amplify
Young people from all over the world have joined Amplify to share their voice on issues that intersect with young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Amplify is a safe online space to share your experiences, express your passion and embrace the work you are doing in your community! Here are just a few of the amazing blogs that are posted on Amplify. Check them out and remember to join, add your comments to these blogs, and even create your own!
Are Sexual Rights Human Rights?
Reproductive Health Programs Needed in Emergency Situations
What is wrong with us men?
If you have difficulty logging on to Amplify, feel free to email email@example.com
What’s New at Advocates for Youth?
Advocates for Youth Takes Ally Week to Action in the United States!
Ally Week was hosted in the United States from October 18-22. Ally week is devoted to allies from across the United States “coming out” to support their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning peers. Everyone can and should express their support for GLBTQ youth through their words and actions.
Advocates for Youth, among many organizations, participated in this week to remind others that GLBTQ people are our mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and co-workers!
In addition, participants on Facebook added this statement to their status:
“This week I am coming out as an ally to the GLBTQ community because I believe all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, deserve to feel safe and supported. Happy Ally Week 2010!”
Check out some blogs on Amplify relevant to GLBTQ issues that were posted during this Week:
Youth Rally in Support of Transgender Peers as Adults Take Away Homecoming King and Queen Titles
Does it Get Better?
Student Suspended for Pro-Gay Shirt
I have a confession to make
Interested in trying this in your country?
All it takes is someone like YOU! Just contact firstname.lastname@example.org!
Great American Condom Campaign Takes Off!
The Great American Condom Campaign (GACC) is a youth-led grassroots movement to make the U.S. a sexually healthy nation. Each year, GACC members give out Trojan Brand condoms on college campuses across the United States, educate their peers about sexual health, and organize to improve the policies that affect young people’s health and lives. This past month, Advocates distributed 500,000 Trojan Brand condoms to 1,000 students on 729 colleges and universities. The 1,000 students were selected to be GACC ‘safe sites’ where they are obliged to each distribute 500 condoms at their school.
To check out the GACC website on Amplify, click here.
Advocates’ Youth Activists Focus to Stop Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill
Advocates for Youth continued to host a website to mobilize youth activists in the United States to pressure the Obama administration to take a firm position in stopping Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009” (full bill text here) was introduced on October 14, 2009 by Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati. The bill has been condemned by human rights groups around the world, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The World AIDS Campaign, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
If passed, this measure would promote an unprecedented climate of discrimination and violence against Uganda’s LGBT citizens. Among other things, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would:
Provide up to three-year jail sentences for anyone who does not report the LGBT citizens they know to Ugandan authorities.
Outlaw HIV/AIDS awareness programs as a “promotion of homosexuality.” Working for such programs would constitute a crime punishable by up to a three-year jail sentence.
Impose a minimum sentence of life in prison for those found to be (by a lay witness or the police) having homosexual sex
Impose the death penalty on gay HIV-positive citizens found to be having sex.
For more background on this measure, please see this summary by Human Rights Watch.
Advocates firmly believes Uganda’s LGBT citizens deserve the Obama Administration’s support and high-level attention. Accordingly, Advocates is hosting a petition asking President Obama to make stopping Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill a priority for his international agenda.
In September, at Advocates’ annual Urban Retreat in Washington, D.C., over 120 young people signed postcards expressing why this bill is against human rights and an injustice to Uganda’s LGBT citizens. Advocates continues to collect online signatures and signed postcards to be delivered to the Obama Administration.
Read about the latest outrage: a front page headline in a Uganda newspaper announces “100 pictures of Uganda’s top homos leak” and calls for hanging.
We must stop this genocide amongst LGBT Ugandan citizens!
Check out our “Stand for Uganda” website here: http://www.standforuganda.com/
Tools You Can Use
Adolescent Job Aid
By the World Health Organization
The Adolescent Job Aid is a handy desk reference tool for health workers who provide services to children, adolescents, and adults. It aims to help these health workers respond to their adolescent patients more effectively and with greater sensitivity. This tool provides precise, step-by-step guidance on how to treat adolescents when they present with a concern about their health or development. The Job Aid addresses three main parts: (1) the clinical interaction between the adolescent and the health worker; (2) algorithms, communication tips, and frequently asked questions on 25 presentations related to developmental conditions, pregnancy-related conditions, genital conditions (including sexually transmitted infections), HIV, and other common presentations; and (3) information for adolescents and their parents or other accompanying adults on important health and development issues.
For more information, click here, or contact: email@example.com
“Improving Research Quality: How Good is the Literature on the Impact of Education on HIV and AIDS?”
By the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
UNAIDS commissioned the ODI to review the research on the impact of the education sector on HIV and AIDS and to assess the quality of evidence in documents. This brief summarizes the steps in the assessment; key findings and gaps in the research identified by the literature review; and recommendations for making the research more rigorous, targeted, and useful for policymakers and programmers.
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Training Course in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research 2010: Adolescent Health and Development with a Particular Focus on Sexual and Reproductive Health
By the World Health Organization (WHO)
The WHO Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development developed this module for a larger e-learning course on sexual and reproductive health: from research to practice. The aim of this module is to teach learners why they need to invest in the health and development of adolescents (including their sexual and reproductive health) and what they can do to improve the health and development of adolescents (with a particular focus on too-early pregnancy and HIV). The five topics covered in this module are: (1) introduction to adolescence and adolescent health, (2) evidence-based approaches to sexuality education for adolescents, (3) evidence-based approaches to sexual and reproductive health service provision for adolescents, (4) adolescent pregnancy, and (5) HIV and young people. Although the course has ended, all materials and supporting documents are available online.
Young People Most at Risk of HIV
By USAID, UNAIDS, the Interagency Youth Working Group, and Family Health International
This paper is designed to call more attention to young people within the groups considered “most at risk” for HIV—those who sell sex, those who inject drugs, and young men who have sex with men. Despite the growing attention that has been given to programming for these groups, little explicit focus has emerged on the particular needs of young people in these populations. As a result, young people who inject drugs or sell sex and young men who have sex with men are often not targeted in any type of programming.
For more information, contact: email@example.com
Read All About It
South Africa takes leadership in Tuberculosis (TB) testing for people living with HIV/AIDS
Health officials in South Africa recently recommended that within five years, providers should offer screening to all patients living with HIV/AIDS to be tested for tuberculosis. In addition, UNAIDS official Paul De Lay said that by 2015, all TB patients in South Africa should be automatically screened for HIV. HIV patients are much more likely to contract tuberculosis because of weakened immune systems and South Africa has one of the world’s highest TB rates because of its HIV/AIDS epidemic. To read more, check out this article from Washington Post here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/13/south-africa-to-test-all-hiv-patients-for-tb/
Pressure for Nepal to increase age of marriage to 20 years
Nepal has reduced its maternal mortality rate by half over the past 10 years but the number of women dying in childbirth is still very high. Meanwhile, officials are introducing new legislation that would increase age of marriage to 20 years to contribute to the reduction of teen pregnancies. Women in Nepal can currently marry from the age of 18, and start a family with the consent of their parents. KC Naresh, director of the family health division, department of health said: “We want to encourage all Nepali women not to have children until they’re 20.” To read more, check out this BBC article here: Nepal parliament urged to raise legal marriage age
Muppet living with HIV lives on Nigeria’s Sesame Street
In Nigeria, a country with a population of over 150 million, nearly half of which are under the age of 14, Sesame Square will address the major challenges facing the young African community today including AIDS, malaria, gender inequality, religious differences, as well as many positive aspects of Nigerian life. The Nigerian version of Sesame Street, the latest in a long line of region-specific shows, will be hosted by Kami, a female muppet who is HIV-positive. Read more: HIV Positive Muppet Moves to Nigeria’s Sesame Street
Funding may not match need for merely controlling global HIV
Merely controlling HIV and AIDS will cost between $397 billion and $733 billion over the next 20 years – and unless more money is spent the pandemic will continue to spread. If funding is not increased from 2009, infections could rise from 2.3 million a year to 3.2 million by 2031, claimed a report by the aids2031 financing group, headed by the Results for Development Institute, in Washington DC. In the Lancet journal, the group warns it is “increasingly improbable” in tough economic times that donors and governments will find enough money to fund a rapid increase in universal access to prevention and treatment services by 2015. To learn more, check out this Guardian article here: HIV infections could hit 3.2m a year by 2031 if funding is not increased
Ugandan teens living with HIV are abandoning religion before treatment
“Over the years we have noticed a growing trend of adolescents and caregivers who have withdrawn from treatment with a belief of having been cured of HIV/AIDS in church,” said Cissy Ssuna, the counselor coordinator at Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation in Uganda, which treats more than 4,000 HIV-infected children, 750 of whom are adolescents. Rebecca Nakityo, 17, is one of those young people living with HIV. She spends every free moment watching gospel TV, reading the Bible or praying in church. The soft-spoken teen – who has lived with her aunt and uncle since her parents’ death several years ago – believes that she was cured by God six months ago.
From the Guardian: HIV-positive teens in Uganda put religion before antiretroviral drugs
My Voice Counts!
Conferences Coming Up
2010 International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference
The 26th International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference will bring together hundreds of openly LGBT leaders in government, politics, advocacy, business and community organizations. Held in Washington, D.C., December 2 to 5, 2010, attendees will experience three days of training, skills building, networking and discussion of key issues facing out leaders and their communities. For more information, click here: http://www.victoryinstitute.org/app/webroot/files/conference2010/index.html
XXV International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) World Conference
The 25th ILGA World Conference will be held in Sao Paolo, Brazil, from December 4-9, 2010. The conference will cover the following themes:
Sexism and genderism within the LGBTI movement and organizations
Funding in times of crisis: the search for resources for the movement
Building better alliances for UN advocacy
Learning more about the intersex debate
LGBTI Families: achievements and challenges
Religion and homophobia: an inevitable relationship?
Violence on the rise: Homophobia and Transphobia in Africa
For more information, click here: http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/mwRtYJs1tv
Are you on Amplify? Join Now!
Have you heard about Amplify but don’t know exactly what it is? One of Advocates for Youth’s main strategies is the use of new media technologies to empower young people to access information, share perspectives, connect to peers and services, and take action on issues that they care about..
Advocates communicates with its domestic and international networks of young people regularly via Amplify (www.amplifyyourvoice.org), a groundbreaking global Web site for young people working to improve youth sexual and reproductive and rights.
Thanks to many of you, Amplify–launched in January 2009, during its first year alone, hosted 370,000 visitors. The site is rapidly growing in popularity, with over 1,000,000 unique visitors expected in 2010.
Through the site, young activists blog, share stories, reach out to policy makers, write op-eds, and organize on-the-ground activism.
Amplify allows registered users to automatically stream their activities on Amplify to Facebook, so that a young person writing a blog about international family planning can share it instantly with hundreds of his/her friends. Amplify has been instrumental during the past year in successfully launching a campaign in favor of increased international family planning funding and in building Advocates’ International Youth Activist Network of more than 800 young people and youth-led/serving organizations around the globe.
You probably already know, but POWER comes with you as leaders who want to make a difference.
So, if you’re not already on Amplify, JOIN!
If you know people who are interested, get THEM to JOIN!
Blogging is fun, easy, and you can AMPLIFY your OWN voice by giving it a try!
Go to www.amplifyyourvoice.org and make your voice heard!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Do it soon!! You could be one of the first 10!
World AIDS Day, December 1, 2010
Each year, December 1 marks World AIDS Day, when activists around the world come together to raise awareness of the global HIV epidemic, fight prejudice, and improve HIV education and prevention.
This year’s theme is “universal access and human rights.” The theme is an important reminder that marginalized communities, including people living with HIV/AIDS, young people, GLBTQ people, sex workers, and injecting drug users, among others, still face unequal access to information, resources, services, and treatment. The theme also reinforces the Millennium Development Goal on HIV/AIDS—a global goal focused on halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2015 and securing universal access to treatment for all by now—2010.
The world’s current economic woes are threatening efforts to ensure universal access and human rights for all. Governments are making some painful decisions. World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to emphasize the critical need for universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV/AIDS—especially as it relates to young people.. While 45 percent of all new HIV infections are among young people ages 15-24, comprehensive HIV prevention programming for youth is still lacking due to inadequate political will and funding. Sex continues to be a taboo subject across cultures, which only further threatens effective HIV prevention efforts among youth as well as other groups.
The theme of this World AIDS Day can be powerfully articulated through contextual stories and real life case studies that speak to the principles of equality and the value of all human beings. This is why Advocates for Youth is hosting the World AIDS Day blog-a-thon to give you the space to share your STORIES.
Advocates World AIDS Day Blog-a-thon
From December 1-8, Advocates will be hosting a World AIDS Day blog-a-thon on Amplify as a part of the global movement of young people fighting to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Share your personal reflections about how HIV and AIDS have affected you, post your perspective on the policies and issues that affect the health of young people around the world, or upload pictures or video exploring the experience of HIV and AIDS during the first 10 years of the new millennium.
All new blog-a-thon posts will be featured on this page – and many will be spotlighted on the Amplify home page as well.
Access for all to prevention, treatment, care and support is a fundamental human right.
Get informed about policies and issues around the HIV epidemic
Amplify Issues: HIV
Amplify HealthFacts: HIV
Youth and the Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic
Advocates for Youth has a form to sign-up for the iYAN on our website. Send this link to your friends so they can sign-up too!