South African Youth at the ICPD25 Summit
At the heart of the Western Cape Province is the hub of a vibrant Siyakwazi Youth Network who are trying with all their might to push the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) agenda and make it a regional one. Siyakwazi is the brainchild of South African organisation, Partners in Sexual Health (PSH) and recently made their international debut at the just ended ICPD conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
During a side event at the conference hosted by PSH, the Siyakwazi Youth Coordinator Ndzuzo (Jabu) Mlandu explained that, “Through our advocacy we intend to massif issues and it is important that the youth fully understand policy in order to effectively and efficiently influence it.” Mlandu further stated that the utilisation of digital and social media to reach out to the youth could come in as a handy move.
When addressing the youth present at the summit, the Chief Director of the National Population Unit, Department of Social Development, Pretoria South Africa, Jacques Van Zuydam walked them through the initial inception processes of the ICPD which transpired 25 years ago. Every delegate participating in the ICPD undergoes a vigorous selection process and many of the first timers get consumed by the hype of being a part of something of this magnitude rendering their ability to grasp the meaning and relevance of most of the messaging elusive.
According to Van Zuydam, it is also important for delegates to take every piece of information with a pinch of salt explaining that no organisation is wholly good or bad citing that whilst some faith based organisations maybe progressively calling for the equality of women they may in the same breath shun the use of family planning methods leaving child bearing in the hands of ‘God’.
Van Zuydam pointed out the importance of avoiding information overload and rather concentrate on what they want to take home, empowered with knowledge and relevant information to advance their advocacy ambitions. As a word of advice Van Zuydam encouraged the youth members to keep up the momentum and not make their attendance a once off event but rather continue advocating for the change they want to see.
All the external factors trying to hinder the proceedings of the ICPD came to play as there were protesters surrounding the venue and all of them citing that people have convened to advocate for abortion (SRHR) and teaching the young ones how to have sex through CSE.
Also part of the Siyakwazi Youth Network, Lerato Morulane pointed out the importance of creating platforms where the youth movements get opportunities to hobnob with government officials to get their input because it is unbecoming for people to be making decisions on their behalf without having their input. This will also help to hold Ministers and other official accountable to the binding commitments made and protocols signed at such conventions.
‘A child should be seen and not be heard’ so goes the African proverb that has managed to propagate centuries of the violation of the rights of children and the youth across the globe. The world however is going a different direction and singing a different tune as we are witnessing a global youthful uprising and witnessing an increasing number of youth actively participating in decision-making processes of matters affecting their lives.