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What Can Youth in Latin America and Africa Learn from Each Other?
As a part of the UN Commission on Population and Development, IPPF/WHR Regional Advocacy Coordinator, Flor Hunt, moderated a panel at The Permanent Mission of Germany yesterday. The side event was entitled "Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices" and featured four leaders in the field of youth sexual and reproductive health. It opened with a welcome address from Miguel Berger, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, who said: "Realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights is a focal priority of German development cooperation in the area of health and population policy. It is seen as a necessary prerequisite for achieving international development goals."
Next, Flor introduced Sheila Tlou, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team of Eastern and Southern Africa, who spoke about the need for comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services to prevent HIV. Tlou stressed that governments must be held accountable for providing youth sexual and reproductive health services.
Dr. Claudia Herlt was introduced next. Herlt is the Program Director for the Regional HIV/AIDS Program Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa at GIZ Brazil. She explained her project to gain public policies on comprehensive sexuality education and HIV prevention in schools and spoke about the importance of the Ministerial Declaration: Prevention through Education, a pledge to provide comprehensive sexuality education in schools that was signed by several Latin American and Caribbean governments in Mexico in 2008. She made the point that doing advocacy work requires working on a local level and using local knowledge in order to be most effective and have the greatest impact.
The Advocacy Manager for DSW Uganda, Mona Herbert spoke on the organization's youth-to-youth sexual and reproductive health education program. He stressed the importance of sex education for youth including information about negotiating power centers in the society, such as legislation and social norms. Herbert said that it's not enough to simply share information with youth; you have to also let them know where they can access services.
IPPF youth advocate Zoe Stewart brought the panel to a close on an inspiring note. "Youth deserve the opportunity to speak for ourselves about our own sexual and reproductive health needs," said Stewart. "Youth have a strong voice and it's important for us to use it to advocate for things we believe in."
When the floor opened for audience members to ask the panelists questions, the President of Family Care International, Ann Starrs, asked about the use of social media to education young people about sexual and reproductive health. Zoe Stewart pointed out that, although social media can be useful to reach youth, organizations have to be sure the messages are accurate and evidence based.
IPPF Director-General Tewodros Melesse brought the side event to an end with an expression of thanks and admiration for the panelists and the side event attendees.
You can see photos from "Education Matters: Empowering Young People to Make Healthier Choices" by clicking on the slideshow below.