Setting Stage To Welcome 2015 And The SDGs

In efforts to advocate for various issues of interest in their fields of specialization, young people have continuously engaged with the processes that feed into the post 2015 development agenda.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
One of those areas of interest continues to be universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) under universal health coverage. In Kenya, young people have come together to form an alliance of organizations keen on moving forward the SRHR agenda nationally and globally. This alliance is formed under ACT2015, an initiative by the PACT (A consortium of youth led and youth serving organizations working on SRHR and HIV/AIDS) and UNAIDS to ensure that adolescents and young people’s SRHR are strongly featured in the post 2015 development agenda.

Dandelion Kenya, at the beginning of the year, participated in phase 1 of the ACT2015 initiative. We held a community dialogue with adolescent girls, who are participants in our comprehensive sexuality education program dubbed, I Choose, My Life. From this dialogue, it readily emerged that access to youth friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education are crucial for the wellbeing of adolescents and young people. In this respect, they should be guaranteed under universal access to health to all including SRHR.

Meaningful engagement of youth in the post 2015 development agenda

We then went to join the second phase as part of the alliance, which has focused in equipping youth advocates with advocacy skills and building their capacity to plan and program adequately. This bore fruits when we met government officials one and a half weeks ago. The meeting, facilitated by UNAIDS was themed meaningful youth engagement in the post 2015 development agenda. Kenya, which is currently the co facilitator for the intergovernmental negotiations, has been strongly represented in the open working group (as the co-chair) as well as the high level panel. Both the open working group and high level panel were crucial structures to the formulation of the post 2015 development agenda.

This goes to speak to the important role that Kenya plays at different levels. In the meeting, the national government, through the ministry of devolution, department of the MDGs and directorate of youth reiterated Kenya’s support for young people nationally and globally. Strong support was also demonstrated for the integration of post 2015 into Kenya’s vision 2030 second Medium Term Plan. Further discussions between the government and young people brought out the need to have a wide range of audience sensitized on the post 2015 development agenda; the blue print that will define the course of development for the next 15 years.

It emerged from the meeting that young people have to be actively engaged in advocacy towards universal access to health but they should not forget to also put efforts towards advocating for what has emerged as overarching during the entire post 2015 agenda discussions; poverty eradication, and most importantly food security, which has been deemed as a technical discussion.

IFMSA Africa Regional Meeting

In my efforts to advocate for SRHR and engage more young people in the post 2015 development agenda discussions, Dec 17th- Dec 23rd) saw me travel to Kampala Uganda for the International Federation of Medical Students Association Africa Regional Meeting. Here I was an external partner brought in to share my experience working at the community, regional and global levels to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. This encompassed training medical students from various African countries on the basics on SRHR, their role in advancing the realization of SRHR as future health professionals and what we have achieved so far within the post 2015 development agenda. This led to us engaging in discussions on the international conference population and development; a landmark document in which 179 UN member states defined SRHR and continue to reaffirm through the various reviews, including the most recent ICPD Beyond 2014 review.

The gender equality discussion saw us dissect the Beijing Platform for Action; a document that identified the 12 critical areas that governments should focus on to ensure the achievement of gender equality and advance women’s rights. The session also involved discussions on the recent findings of the Beijing +20 Africa Regional review. In this review it emerged that we still have a lot of work to do to eliminate all forms of discrimination, where we have barely made actual progress despite churning volumes of supporting resolutions such as the recent resolution on child marriage. Most Africa countries criminalize Female Genital Mutilation but we still continue to have girls undergoing the barbaric practice. The wave of violence and terrorism on the continent continue to put women at risk of violence with their bodies being used as weapons of war through rape and sexual violence.
Finally we discussed the progress made, especially with the stand alone goal on gender equality, which also has a target on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights.

Medical Students have a role to play and their expertise and health profession knowledge would greatly enrich the voice of young people advocating for universal access to health within the post 2015 development agenda. We have to widen the scope of advocacy by ensuring that young people also engage in discussions deemed technical and that our voice is widespread into all the spheres and processes that feed into the post 2015 development agenda.

Setting Stage and Preparing to Tip Development in Post 2015
2015 is the year that will mark the tipping point for development, carrying forward the unfinished agenda of the MDGs and adoption of the post 2015 development agenda. Such engagements as those described above go a long way to strengthen advocacy efforts and sensitize more people on the post 2015 development agenda. The same goes towards the platforms being crucial in discovering what needs to be prioritized during implementation.
We have come a long way but we need to do more in order to be ready for OUR blueprint so that we LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.

Happy holidays and a Happy New Year 2015.

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1