Shift, Engage, Share and Speak: Youth Make their Voices Heard

22 July 2010
Author: UNFPA

ENTEBBE, Uganda — They are huddled together in a group in the midst of an animated discussion to which each has something to contribute. Eager to make her point is Barbara Kyomugisha. At just 24 years old, Barbara is a single mother living with HIV. The contribution she makes towards this discussion is first hand. To her, the affordability of health services is just as important as accessibility in addressing the rates of maternal mortality in Africa. The Anti-Retro Virals (ARVs) she’s taking are free, but when she gave birth, she could not afford the gloves the health centre asked her for. Her colleagues add to what soon becomes a laundry list of causes including illiteracy, lack of antenatal care, delay in accessing services, as well as negative attitudes of health care providers towards young teen mothers.

Young delegates from 40 countries all over Africa are in Entebbe, Uganda attending the Africa Youth Forum from 17 to 19 July , a precursor to the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union. This event was implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and strategically funded and supported by UNICEF and United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.

After much deliberation and tabling of ideas and recommendations, the young delegates began drafting a communiqué that would be presented to Heads of State at the African Union Summit.

After much deliberation and tabling of ideas and recommendations, the young delegates began drafting a communiqué that would be presented to Heads of State at the African Union Summit.

On the third and final day of the forum, the delegates reached consensus on commitments and recommendations of 103 youth present at the forum, and a further 1,000 participating online. In five commitments, delegates pledged to: maintain and promote a healthy lifestyle through peer-to-peer mentoring; use all forms of youth-focused media and communication strategies to promote attitudinal change towards addressing maternal, infant and child health issues; prevent sexual and gender-based violence; monitor and track progress on the implementation of the health provisions of the African Youth Charter and Maputo Action Plan, and carry out outreach programmes in communities.

Aside from their own commitments, youth delegates made clear what they expected from their own governments. This includes integrating life skills and sexual reproductive health education into school curricula; implementing existing legislation on sexual reproductive health of young people; establishing youth desks in government ministries in order to encourage youth participation; scaling up youth-friendly services, and above all, recognizing and institutionalizing the African Youth Forum as part of the ordinary sessions of the African Union.

To add a colourful mix of music and culture, each day Saint Kizito’s Primary School, Ngora Girls Secondary School and Bugulu Primary School held six-minute performances. These were dynamic entertainment pieces showcasing youth participation through UN youth clubs that share messages on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within their communities using music, dance and drama.

Drawing on experiences from their communities, the young performers crafted messages to simplify the importance and impact of achieving improvements in safe motherhood, newborn and child health at the household level.

These cultural groups performed throughout the forum represent sensitization groups for attitudinal change. They are supervised by the Ministry of Health, Population Secretariat and the UN Association of Uganda, under the Government of Uganda /United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 7th Country Programme.

This first-ever African Youth Forum took place in Uganda, but connected with and engaged young people across the continent through live-streaming, online radio and social networking websites such as Facebook. Minute-by-minute, delegates updated friends and colleagues extending the reach of The Forum beyond just those who were lucky enough to attend. As Murungi Ronald commented on the African Youth Forum Facebook page: “I missed the forum but we are all in touch. Indeed this has been a spectacular event for the African youth.”

— Story by UNFPA team in Uganda

Population : 45.7 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24

Related content

This World AIDS Day, UNFPA recognizes the vital role of communities in delivering sexual and reproductive health services that help prevent HIV transmission and improve the well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The stigma attached to HIV can derail the health and safety of young people living with the virus

This Checklist supports the involvement of women living with HIV – and community activists who care about the rights of women living with HIV – to guarantee effective implementation of the Consolidated guideline on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living wit