By: Amanda Banura Joan, Journalist, Uganda.
Amanda is a 20 year-old woman living in Uganda who recently graduated with a diploma in Mass Communication and Journalism. She currently volunteers with a radio station in Uganda as a program presenter and news anchor.
She attended the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this past November. This is her coverage of youth commitments to family planning made during the conference.
The youth delegates to the 3rd International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) have vowed to be the face and voice of the voiceless in their respective countries regarding issues to do with sexual reproductive health, contraception and family planning issues.
Under the newly founded International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP), youth met at the African Union Conference center with Liberian journalist Mae Azongo on Friday 15th November, 2013. IYAFP is a global youth platform aimed at advocating for full choice, full access to family planning throughout the world.
During The meeting Mae Azongo shared her experience as a women freedom activist in her country and how she advocated for women’s rights against female genital mutilation. The young people in turn shared their experiences and country perspectives. Among these youth were Brian from Kenya, Doreen from Uganda and Francis from Ghana.
The alliance administrator Jillian Gedeon from Canada appreciated Mae’s hard work and devotedness to fight for women’s rights despite the great opposition she faced that endangered her life. “We should all emulate Mae’s example and apply the same in our home countries if we want to take root in the ground as the youth alliance”, Gedeon said.
The IYAFP was master-minded by Nigerian youth delegate Isaiah Owolabi, assisted by Caroline Boraya from Kenya, Jillian Gedeon, and Doreen Kikanu from Uganda with the guidance of the ICFP 2013 Youth coordinator, Anna Kagesten, among others.
The Executive Chair Isaiah Owolabi said the Alliance will learn from the ICFP to advocate for meaningful involvement in advocacy and policy making as far as family planning is concerned.
“The alliance has about 30 countries that attended ICFP 2013, and all the representatives will be the country coordinators of IYAFP”. Isaiah explained.
The ICFP 2013 event brought together over 3500 people from all corners of the world, starting off with a youth pre-conference at the Saro Maria hotel in Addis Ababa on Monday 12 November, 2013.
While opening the youth event, the Chief organizer of the ICFP Mr. Jose Rimon II said that a torch had been passed to the young generation to pass out the banner of family planning.
The conference, which was the largest international conference on family planning, involved over 350 young participants.
Meanwhile, during his opening ceremony the Ethiopian State minister for health Dr. Kasetebirhan Admassu called upon all country diplomats to honor the call of family planning with action. “Let us join hands to make the world a better place for women, children and the youth” the Minister added.
Among the innovative talkers and moderators of the conference was the Deputy Executive Director of the UNFPA, Kathryn Gilmore who advocated for girl child education:
“If we change a girl’s life by sending and keeping her in school, we will change the world by delaying early pregnancies and forced teenage marriages.”
Furthermore, the African Union commissioner Dr.Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma emphasized that family planning is the center of development in Africa and and it is the right of every woman and contraception, a right of every girl.
She added that women are the most important resource a nation has. She called upon all governments to send girls to school and help them stay in school.
“Not only girls but also boys and men should be educated on the importance of family planning and child spacing”.
Dr. Zuma appealed to the youth to start shaping their future now if they want to have a happy life.