Young people are the future. This phrase is used time and time again when talking about how and why to engage youth around global issues. Today, at what was one of the most inspiring youth events I have attended to date, Robin Gorna, the Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child health opened an engaging “round robin” discussion by stating the simple fact that in fifteen years the youth leading change now will be taking their seats as young adults in the field of global health and development. The #YouthVoices event hosted by Johnson & Johnson and Women Deliver, set the stage for young people to talk about the work they are doing as well as network with leaders in the field of global health.
I had the amazing opportunity to sit in on three of the discussions where young people presented the work they are doing to improve the health of women, children, adolescents and communities. This type of discussion not only empowered them to share about their work but it also gave them an opportunity to network with leaders in their field. In all of my experience attending youth-focused events, this is the first one where I felt youth really had the seat at the table. Those attending the discussions put away our phones, stopped tweeting and we did the most powerful thing you can do:
Because not all of you were able to be in the room I want to bring the conversation to you. Let me introduce you to just a few of the young people I had the opportunity to meet. Make sure to look up their work and consider how you might be able to support what they are doing to create change for women, children, adolescents’ and communities around the world. Youth are both the present and the future of global health initiatives.
Preslava Ivanova, Bulgaria
Preslava works with a network called YPEER as well as the Bulgarian Red Cross Youth. She works in her country to promote conversations among youth about comprehensive sexuality education. She has initiated a comprehensive sex education peer group and club at her high school.
Cedric Nininahazwe, Burundi
Cedric leads a national network of young people called RNJ+. This organization works to create safe spaces for young people to talk about HIV, get tested and reduce stigmas.
Delaine Powerful, New York
Delaine works in New York with The Torch Program. She works to empower young people and provide them with spaces to have difficult conversations centered around sexual health.