February 26, 2015

Keeping it real

by Yemurai Nyoni, Women Deliver Young Leader

As we continue discussions on the Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health, we must remember to keep it real. The ten-year-old girl in Kadoma preparing supper after coming home from school doesn’t relate to the complicated conversations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all the high-sounding words we use to talk about adolescent health and development. It matters more that our conversations translate to basic dignity, respect, equality and real empowerment for all young people.

It should mean that as a young person, I will access the health services I need whenever I need them, however I need them and close enough for me to reach. It should mean that as young people, we are given the information and skills we need to deal with the daily risks of sexually transmitted infections, early and unplanned pregnancy and suicidal thoughts, which have greater power to dash our hopes than failing a Mathematics test.

In order to come up with real solutions, we need to be willing to provide for more meaningful spaces for youth involvement in decision-making platforms like this one. It worries me that young people count for such a large proportion of the populations of our countries and yet our numbers seem to matter so little. Where are we as young people when you make decisions that affect us? You continue to leave us behind and to make decisions that cause us great discomfort.

I believe this engagement should be used to bring young people strongly on-board to the health discussion. As young people, we are the present hope and the future reality. The world beyond 2015 belongs to young people and so the decisions made today must also belong to young people. We should not have to beg for ‘crumbs’ when we own the largest stake of the development ‘loaf’.

Engage young people because as a constituency, we are the custodians of hope, with aspirations uncorrupted by experience. It is this generation of adolescents and youth who can imagine a world without AIDS, without the death of mothers, where men and women are given equal opportunities and where adolescent girls are protected from child marriage.

You see, the world we seek to create beyond 2015 has never been seen before. We are setting our minds and laying our hands to produce unusual results for women, children and adolescents, and to do this we must be prepared to do the uncommon. I challenge you in your area of influence, to allow yourself to have uncomfortable conversations, to listen to new voices and to dare to create a different world.

It is within your power to turn the focus of the SDGs to every individual; to break down the statistics to every ‘one’ represented in the thousands we quote everyday. It is unacceptable to have a framework that allows for the health of the poor, the young and the marginalized to fall through the cracks of high costs, discrimination, restrictive cultural norms, and a lack of government commitment. Let us determine instead, to create a world where no individual is left behind and to express this hope in the revised Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health.