Promoting Youth Participation in Bolivia
Young people between the ages of 10 and 24 account for more than a third of the Bolivian population. The issues related to their sexual and reproductive health are staggering:
• Every hour in Bolivia, three teenagers get pregnant.
• One in five Bolivian youth are unaware of any contraceptive method.
• Adolescents make up 25% of people living with STIs and HIV/AIDS.
To address these major challenges, our Member Association in Bolivia, the Center of Investigation, Education and Services (CIES), organized youth groups in five regions to raise awareness of their rights and to build the advocacy skills needed to demand their fulfillment by government actors. The results were astounding: Nearly 500 young people received training on sexual and reproductive health and rights, social participation, and accountability.
The youth contributed to the passage of the National Youth Law, which incorporates sexual and reproductive rights, comprehensive sexual education, and access to youth-friendly services as its cornerstone. Eighteen subnational policies have also been enacted to guarantee sexuality education and access to health services for adolescents. The Ministry of Health issued a resolution to promote youth participation in the nation’s health system, and a national decree was issued to ensure access to the legal system and a fair legal process for young people who are victims of violence.
The youth networks ensured that a budget was allocated at a local level to effectively provide services. But perhaps most telling of all is the palpable feeling among youth leaders that they are now empowered to take part in the construction of Bolivia’s democracy and the development of a rich public life at all levels of government.