CHOICE BLOG

Combining our voices – connector meeting

A strong and unified youth voice is more powerful than individual young people speaking out about their rights alone. With this conviction, CHOICE identified a third role for itself in 2013. Aside from being a capacity builder and an advocate, we also wanted to work as a ‘connector,’ bringing together youth voices worldwide. A first connector meeting took place in January 2014 in Nairobi, the Youth Leadership FYI week (Fostering Youth Led Initiatives), with representatives from all our five partner youth organizations. Now this year, on the eve of the 48th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) it was time for connector meeting #2.

Blog by Zoë Nussy , General Boardmember

Seizing the moment The moment was strategic: the Millennium Development Goals end this year and simultaneously, intergovernmental negotiations on its successor, the post-2015 framework, are in full swing. Thus, it was high time to bring together in New York our partner youth-led organizations NAYA from Kenya, TaYA from Ethiopia and YECE from Malawi to formulate together a joint advocacy strategy on youth and SRHR.

Linking local to global advocacy Coming from different contexts and perspectives however, we started off with getting to know a bit more about the advocacy work all organizations do and relating it to the ICPD Program of Action and, more broadly advocacy. This was not only a nice way to get to know each other and each other’s work, but also a way to learn from best practices and to start discussions. YECE’s Executive Director explained in his presentation how the mobilization of community champions – including parents and religious leaders – contributed to legislation on the eradication of child marriage. Victor and Brenda from NAYA explained us how they have succeeded to talk about sex and sexuality more openly in their radio program.

Language is everything Real strategizing began on day 2, with a thorough analysis of the language included in various country statements and outcome documents from various conferences. Victor (NAYA) noted for example that “the Addis Ababa regional consensus document is very important: it contains strong language on our issues.” Language is everything in advocacy and thus we discussed all kinds of negative wordings of youth issues such as the awkward characterization of a young population as a “youth bulge”, and down grading the need for youth friendly services to “age-appropriate health care programs”. We concluded with the composition of a list of key-issues: things we want to see referred to in the final outcome document, and issues we can advocate for.

Connecting advocacy to reality The meeting was a success and we came together both on a formal as well as informal level. Definitely a good step for uniting youth (SRH) rights advocacy worldwide. Joint advocacy is step one but as Ephrem (TaYA) noted:“A mechanism for accountability is important. Civil Society have to make sure there is a link between what is happening in our countries and what has been stated in international agreements”. That is when advocacy leads to actual change and the connection is made.