By Vanessa Anyoti, YWCA of Tanzania. Vanessa recently attended the International Conference on Population and Development in New York, and shares her views.
Being a young woman and on the United Republic of Tanzania’s delegation, my experience with the first two days at the 47th Commission on Population and Development has been inspiring to say the least.
The theme of the conference is “The assessment of the status of implementation of the Program of Action (PoA) on the International Conference on Population and Development.” The conference opened with some highs. It was noted that the gaps that are delaying the implementation of the PoA are: the full realisation that human rights are the driver of development, poverty, lack of gender equality, the largest population of youth, sustainable development, universal access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and the security of place and mobility.
It is an honour to be recognised as a civil society organisation (CSO) on the government delegation! However, this experience has taught me that CSO’s need more space! With only three short presentations allocated to CSO’s at the end of each day, our voice is not being clearly heard. We need to play a larger role in the conference as we know and experience first-hand the effects of the implementation of the PoA at the grassroots. Leaving us to wonder: how do we fight for our space? And how do we get more government delegations to adopt CSO’s?
With the largest population of youth the world has ever had, we acknowledge that youth have a powerful voice. However, how do we get governments to listen to and value our input? Also, what is the most effective way to communicate so that we are not being forced to compromise in the end?
What I have also realised in these few days is that there are processes and procedures of navigating the United Nations system and being involved in the conference. It is best to know at the national level what your government is doing in relation to the PoA and who is responsible for assessment and implementation of the PoA. This way, you are able to join the process earlier on and be more likely to have an influence.
Regardless of how hard it is for all the delegations to agree on a common outcome, being that all governments are at different levels of social and economic development, there are some key issues I would like to see addressed in the outcome of the conference. From a young woman and a Tanzanian perspective, I would love to be able to know that at the end of the conference that governments will agree to address the following issues in the next 20 years to come, in addition to addressing the gaps that PoA from the 1994-2014:
- Gender equality
- Sustainable development
- Universal quality education with a particular focus on young women and girls and promotion of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programmes
- Universal health with a particular focus on SRHR, maternal health services and HIV/AIDS prevention and care and non-communicable diseases
- Poverty reduction
- Youth employment and empowerment
- Comprehensive sexuality education
- Investment in clean and renewable energy
All in all, it has been a great learning experience for me, and I am hopeful that we can come up with a great outcome from the conference. Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin urged the delegations not to shy away from issues, stating that change has to come and we have to make that change happen. I was reminded by Ishita Chaudhry that “young women and girls cannot be afraid of challenging injustice, young women and girls need to be wildly and deeply inspirational.”
On 5th April, 2014, we had the youth caucus at Planned Parenthood Federation America (PPFA) and a strong youth statement is endorsed by many organizations and our youth got a slot to speak out at the CPD 47th session on the first day 7th April, 2014. The main point of the oral statement is “governments must demonstrate their political commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights by prioritizing the removal of financial and legal obstacles to essential services and discriminatory laws and practices that violate our rights; transformation of weak health systems; and the elimination of social and economic inequalities, violence and discrimination. Furthermore, we are hopeful that member states will take action toward the implementation of the ICPD Program of Action by validating emerging issues at the highest levels.”
As a young woman, I also want to add the meaningful participation of young women at the national, regional and global level at the decision making roles.
“We, together, can really make our voices be heard.”
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