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#YouthDecidesNow! SheDecides Champions show support for youth SRHR at the all Champion Roundtable 2024

23rd April 2024

On 5 March SheDecides convened an all-Champion roundtable, timed to mark SheDecides Day and build solidarity in our common agenda on youth SRHR. 

Over 60 Champions and their teams from across the globe participated, showcasing the centrality of youth SRHR to our shared vision.

The Guiding Group Co-Chair Sonali Silva moderated the event. Karin Nilsson, Lead of the SheDecides Support Unit welcomed all Champions, noting the critical importance of youth SRHR in the bodily autonomy agenda, and for SheDecides as an intergenerational movement:

“As an intergenerational movement we believe in the power of diverse voices, leaders and experts. We want to open up doors between decision makers and youth leaders to jointly make a change.

To create spaces for joint action across roles, sectors and regions! So today marks the start of our strengthened commitments as SheDecides, to focus on youth SRHR!”

The first welcome was from the newly announced SheDecides Champion Minister Ahmed Hussen, from the Government of Canada – for whom youth SRHR is as a key priority. The Minister said:

As a new SheDecides Champion I am committed to continuing to empower women and amplify the voices of women and girls. Together, we can build a world where women and girls are in control of their own body – and their own future.”

Government of The Netherlands – represented by both Johanneke de Hoogh, Head of Division, Global Health and SRHR, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sara Bahgat, the new Youth Ambassador SRHR and Bodily Autonomy pointed to the Dutch commitment to youth SRHR, showcased by their co-convening of the upcoming Global Youth Dialogue:

The Global Youth Dialogue allows young people from all over the world to amplify their voices. It showcases that we are not only talking about the livelihoods of young people, but we are actively listening to their concerns and needs."

IFMSA’s President Evelina Roubou spoke about the importance of confidentiality, accessibility, tailored information and education, empowerment and participation of young people, cultural sensitivity and diversity, and continuity of care in the design of youth friendly services. Honing in on accessibility she said:

“Youth friendly SRHR services should be tailored to be easily reachable for young people. This encompasses convenient locations, flexi hours, strategies that reduce obstacles like cost, transportation and of course stigma.”

Faith Mwangi-Powell, Chief Executive Officer of Girls Not Brides highlighted child marriage as a barrier to young people’s full SRH, noting that “each year approximately 12 million girls are married under the age of 18. Child marriage is a key driver for adolescent pregnancy, which are often unwanted.” She called on Governments to counter anti-rights rollbacks and do more to end child marriage by investing in Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

Kathleen Sherwin, Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer from Plan International, also focused on barriers, highlighting the need to include young people in decision-making spaces:

“At Plan International we fight for the inclusion of diverse adolescents and young people in all policy processes. Young people must have a seat at the decision-making table. They must have their voices heard. They need adequate resourcing, knowledge sharing, and mentorship to be able to do that."

In the plenary saw more Champions contribute. Jona Turalde highlighted how the intersectionality of CSE can help us push forward our shared agenda; Luisa Bergfeld, representing the Government of Germany, noted that for Germany too, youth was a priority - being contributors to the SheDecides youth campaign, and ensuring youth representatives would join the CPD delegation this year.

Belgium’s representative, Sandrine Vanhamme, asked how to support the creation of safe spaces for young people. Belgium has made equitable access to health a pinnacle of its European Presidency, and are ensuring youth voices have dedicated space at their upcoming event on April 23, with the aim of integrating the resulting recommendations into SRHR policy across development cooperation.

Karen Austrian, the Director of the Population Council’s GIRL Center highlighted the importance of research in advancing the srhr agenda, pointing to the extensive range of evidence resources and data available to the srhr community that strengthen the case for not only greater investment in youth srhr, but also which programs work and for whom.

Ashlee Burnett, representing IPPF, noted the importance of investing in young people and providing them with opportunities. Salima Namusobya, the Vice President for Africa from the Center for Reproductive Rights, who recently joined as Champions, echoed this, highlighting the Center’s efforts to build the capacity of young people to engage in various spaces.

The SheDecides Support Unit provided a quick overview of youth priorities and moments of collaboration throughout the year, before a final video from the German Minister Svenja Schulze, reaffirming Germany commitment to youth SRHR.

Minister Lindiwe Zulu from South Africa closed the event, noting that “a range of challenges including patriarchy [remain], that make it very difficult for young girls in particular and for women in general. We are still far from achieving our goals. She made a rallying cry for coming together and talking joint action.

This roundtable marks the beginning of SheDecides focus on youth SRHR. As Memory Kachambwa, Guiding Group Co-Chair noted:

The #YouthDecides roundtable was an important moment in marking SheDecides focus and commitment to youth srhr. As we enter key political moments including ICPD+30 and The Summit of the Future, we come together in support of youth srhr. A time of such fierce opposition to the right to decide, this strong united voice is more important than ever.”

Learn more about SheDecides focus on youth SRHR.