The Board Chair of the Partnership on Maternal Newborn and Child Health, Graca Machel called for the establishment of a Youth and Adolescents Constituency. In response, The Partnership invited a group of more than 40 young people and youth leaders from 23 countries, representing organisations around the globe to meet in London to develop a strategic plan to ensure adequate representation of youth and adolescent issues in reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health.

The journey leading up to this historic action, spanned nearly two years, where the development of an adolescent health strategy by the Partnership’s Board began in 2013 and included extensive consultation across dozens of young people and youth-serving organisations working in the SRMNCAH (sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health) sector around the world. The initial two-day meeting workshop took place in London 20-21st July 2015, where the global youth representatives engaged in robust discussions and open brainstorming sessions, which lead to concept, principle and strategic plan development, where such resulted in the  formulation of a framework strategy, a proposal to be presented for consideration by the Board. The Youth and Adolescents proposal was subject for adoption and approval by the board chair and members, at the 17th PMNCH Board Meeting, which took place in Lusaka, Zambia, 12-14 October 2015. The adolescent and youth representatives invited to the Board Meeting, professionally represented themselves and their fellow peers from around the globe, speaking on behalf of all young people calling for the endorsement and establishment of a Youth and Adolescent Constituency.

The adolescent and youth representatives in attendance got the opportunity to visit the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia’s youth-friendly clinic in Fair View, where they played a vital role in sharing best principles, and engaging in discussions regarding the operations of an adolescent clinic – sighting the strong need for more nations to adopt the creation of independent youth friendly service health care facilities that inventively and creatively address adolescent health issues and provide youth with the adequate services to care for their health needs.

21 year old UNICEF Youth Ambassador, Brighton Kaoma said: “Today’s youth are tomorrows leaders and policy makers, if young people will be the touche barriers, then they must have a concrete role in the implementation of the SDG’s”

After the clinic visits and in-between working group sessions on different constituencies of the The Partnership, the selected youth representatives delivered brief, innovative and vibrant presentations.  Within the official adoption of The Partnership’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, the organisations board chair and members enthusiastically supported, approved and adopted the establishment of an 8th Constituency and mainstreamed youth & adolescents involvement within the Partnership, to foster youth participation and engagement, and bring greater attention to the voices and issues of young people in its RMNCH work.

The voices of young people play a vital role in shaping policies, programs and providing game changing interventions that can assist organisations to effectively and efficiently provide the right services that meet and cater for their health needs. Their voices need to be progressively heard as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and United Nations Secretary General’s Global Health Strategy on Women, Children and Adolescents takes effect.  Thus their presence in discussions should be granted representation within decision-making processes on a global, regional and national levels. The Partnership has acknowledged the role young people play in the era of sustainable development and this act is one to be emulated by more global organisations, working with adolescent and youth issues around the world.

Youth voices are crucial for over all global, regional and national effectiveness, as the world continues to be in strong need and rising demand of the qualities of the youth. As the infamous long-standing slogan “Nothing about us, without us” goes, I reiterate: “Anything about us, without us, is against us.”

Photo Credit: DFID

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