How Young People Tackle the Climate Crisis Threatening their Pacific Island

Kiribati is one of the least developed countries in the Pacific with few natural resources, limited governance, institutional capacity, and infrastructure. Humanitarian crises are prevalent here, and the occurrence of extreme weather events is likely to increase due to the climate crisis as the sea levels rise and regularly flood coastal homes. 

Safeguarding Communities During Disasters 

Preparedness is key for the local communities. IPPF’s Member Association, the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) has created a Humanitarian Youth Club. They meet regularly to plan rapid responses for their communities during a disaster.  

This initiative is designed to ensure access to essential sexual and reproductive healthcare during crises for women, girls, and vulnerable groups. Theta, 25, is a member of one of the Humanitarian Youth Clubs. She talks about her experiences and hopes for Kiribati. 

Theta and her daughter. Photo: ©IPPF/Hannah Maule-Ffinch/Kiribati 

Facing Challenges on Remote Pacific Islands 

“People here are taught that the withdrawal method or cycle tracking are the only ways to manage family planning. That’s what I was doing when I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy, and I now have a one-year old daughter who I raise alone.  

We face a lot of challenges here, one of them is disasters and the second is unemployment and school drop out with our youth. A lot of people drop out at senior level of high school and start to be influenced by alcohol.

I think parents’ skills are lacking on how to raise the youth. They tell their children they are not good enough or smart enough. I don’t agree with this though, I think everyone has potential.  

Climate change here is affecting jobs, especially those who are fisherman. When there is a high tide and people can’t fish, there will be no money or earnings for that day, or even food for their family. Even the crops, eventually they will die due to too much hot sun.

There was one family in my community, whose livestock such as cabbage and pumpkins were killed by the saltwater. Even my family, we have lost all our pumpkins. My baby daughter should be able to eat vegetables – but now she cannot as they have all died.  

One of my neighbours – who lived in the area most affected by flooding – lost their house and livelihood due to the rising sea levels. They tried to secure the land with sandbags, but they got discouraged when the high tide would come through. They have now migrated away. 

Young People Leading Community Response to Climate Crisis

The youth in my village have been organized as a club since we were younger. We have been very active and now we are leaders. I have helped the Humanitarian Youth Club to apply for financial grants from the Australian High Commission [for $1,000]. I am recognized as the smartest member who can write in English.  

During the Humanitarian Youth Club meetings, we discuss as a group what we can do for the next strong tide.

We discuss where we can gather as a community and what we can do if even the Maneaba [town hall] floods. If the tide and wind is too strong, we need to go to another safer place, such as another community’s town hall.  

We have learned how to design a disaster plan for the community. We share our ideas on sexual reproductive issues such as STIs. The issues were demonstrated in a drama by youth in our community. One of the volunteers from KFHA described to us how it would feel to be a pregnant woman in a disaster. 

For now, I want to enjoy the chance to be in our own beloved country.

I will not move until the majority have already left. I want my daughter to grow up in the same place I grew up in. Isn’t that what most people would want?” 

This post was written by Nerida Williams, IPPF Senior Humanitarian Communications Advisor & Theta Kiraneti, Humanitarian Youth Club member, Kiribati. Share your insights in the comments section below!

How to Build Peace During a Pandemic

As the coronavirus continues to change the way our society and communities interact, we are left wondering what will happen to the momentum that the peacebuilding movement has cultivated. Will activists and advocates get pushed to the fringe? Or will they rise to the challenge and continue to build peace during a pandemic?

International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, May 24th, is an opportunity to showcase the innovation and resilience of peace activists.

The day celebrates the storied histories of those who have confronted creeping global militarism with courage and persistence. It reinforces the message that women are crucial to peacebuilding and disarmament as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 back in 2000 and strengthened by Securing our Common Future Disarmament: An Agenda for Disarmament in early 2020.

If there is anything we know about women who fall in the footsteps of Bertha von Suttner, Bella Abzug, and Coretta Scott King, it is that nothing can prevent them from pressing this work forward. 

Activists across the globe use new and old techniques to help them achieve their goals—and we are taking note.

Here are six strategies and tactics that will bolster your activities to build peace during a pandemic.

1. Shape the narrative, tackle concrete policies

Achieving peace can sometimes seem like a problem so big that you don’t think you can tackle it at all. Peace is not just a state of being but an active factor in how institutions play a key role in our lives. In times of conflict, critical services like child care, court systems, access to food, and transportation are strained.

In many areas around the globe, women in particular have to travel far distances to retrieve water, food, or shelter, which can put them in harm’s way. COVID-19 has stalled court proceedings, choked our unemployment systems, and strained our health systems.

Rather than touting nebulous directives like “give peace a chance,” consider detailing a particular service or resource that we lose in times of conflict and then advocate for a policy that makes a difference.

There is no better example of a young woman who advocates for a set of stricter small-arms laws than Emma Gonzalez, a high school senior who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

2. Practice your pitch

In case you’re not quite tired of seeing your loved ones yet, start in the home. Engage your family and friends in conversations on supporting efforts for peace to help keep momentum. These discussions will help to shape the future of your activist work.

Maybe you share similar viewpoints with those in your household, maybe you don’t. Start by practicing having conversations with those who hold similar worldview—it helps to build confidence in your arguments. Then, familiarize yourself with the opposing viewpoints to get a sense of what people value and where it’s possible to find common ground.

3. Embrace cyberactivism

Lockdowns and stay-at-home ordinances may be forcing many indoors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn your in-person protests and events into online demonstrations and learning opportunities. 

Fire Drill Fridays, a climate activist project of GreenPeace headed by Jane Fonda, has moved its activism from the streets of Washington, DC to the interwebs. The organization hosts regular call-a-thons to show support for policies and teach-ins with emerging and established leaders in the field.

There is no better time to keep up with the latest information and let our representatives know where we stand!

4. Get creative with new forms of nonviolent protests

Cyberactivism isn’t the only way that you can show your support for peace and disarmament while in the COVID19 era. Activists across the globe are spelling out their demands with their cars and from their balconies.

The members of CODEPINK Los Angeles, a women-led grassroots anti-war and anti-militarism organization, are decorating their cars and spelling out “PEACE” to celebrate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. Then, they are using drone photography to snap a picture. Pretty neat! To top it off, they will be leading a caravan full of care packages to homeless populations in the city. 

Activists across South America are employing a kitchenware cacophony deemed cacerolazo, the Spanish word for casserole. From the safety of their homes, thousands of people demonstrate their grievances through the piercing noise of banging on pots and pans. It will definitely get their attention!

5. Lean on state and local government

The fervor for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, exemplifies the impact that state and local officials can have in their communities. The U.S. federal government’s guidance has left much to be desired, leaving states, tribal, and local governments to fend for themselves.

A recent Gallup poll shows an increase in trust in governors to lead in the economic recovery of their states. If state and local politicians in the U.S. can respond to a pandemic effectively, we can turn to them to lead on peace initiatives as well.

The same is true for communities across the globe. The Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions, coordinated with the World Future Council and the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament on a global appeal to commemorate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The worldwide cooperation of local and regional leadership can be instrumental in reducing violence and conflict. 

6. Make your voice heard

Phone usage is up—and so is demand for content. When you are ready to express your viewpoint, put your thoughts from pen to paper. Practice makes progress.

Start with a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Then, move on to a site like this one! Girls Globe is a publishing platform committed to raising the voices of girls and women activists across the world, and they are open to new bloggers. 

It is possible that the first few times you submit your written work it will not get published. That is okay! Take any feedback you get, ask friends and family to edit the piece, and then self-publish on a site like Medium or LinkedIn.

Coronavirus has laid bare many inequities that exist globally. But, it has also accomplished something else—it has given us the slightest insight into what happens when our government is at a standstill. If we are struggling now, we can only imagine what this would feel like with an extended, years-long conflict. 

Don’t lose momentum in advocating for peace. New strategies can solve an old problem.

Share your insights! Do you have other ideas for how to build peace during the pandemic? Or do you have an experience of cyberactivism to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Innovative Solutions to Sexual Healthcare in Switzerland

Noemi, 24, is the youth network co-founder and coordinator for IPPF’s Member Association, Santé Sexuelle Suisse/Sexuelle Gesundheit Schweiz. Here, she shares her experiences and thoughts on the impact COVID-19 is having on sexual healthcare and young people, and talks about how the crisis can offer opportunities.  

The Impact on Sexual Healthcare  

Under normal circumstances, I’d be conducting strategic planning and advocacy work. I would be planning and implementing actions, campaigns and events for the Youth Network, and coaching, motivating and training youth volunteers.

The COVID-19 situation is impacting and intensifying my work. We have to focus on the most essential and basic needs concerning SRHR, which are now under threat. We have had to communicate as quickly as possible that abortion services are still available in all Swiss hospitals. The abortion rate dropped tremendously at the start of the pandemic, because women were afraid to go to the hospitals or didn’t know that abortion services are still provided. We contacted all the family planning centers that provide services concerning sexual health. We wanted to gather best practices in these times concerning the provision of contraception, including emergency contraception. We are closely monitoring the situation as best as possible to intervene in the media or get in contact with hospitals and pharmacies as soon as possible to keep people updated on services.

Getting Creative on Social Media  

Next to the monitoring and political work, I started a creative initiative during the COVID-19 isolation. With our Youth Network we created an artistic competition on our FB and Instagram platforms on issues such as masturbation, menstruation, coming out, female genitalia, and pornography.  

The aim is to enhance creativity and allow young people to reflect on sexual and reproductive health and rights in a creative way. The aim was also to offer something fun and positive in this difficult time. As a prize, we are awarding sex toys from a small queer sex store in Switzerland.  

The project has a lot of success; there are a lot of young people in Switzerland participating and thanking us for this initiative. Next to that we inform the young people in Switzerland through our social media channels about sexual health services which are still in place.  

A winning entry from the social media art competition @judendnetzwerk


Opportunities in a Crisis  

I’m sincerely hoping that this crisis helps to find sustainable solutions to problems and gaps in the health system, particularly concerning sexual and reproductive health, which have become visible during the pandemic.  

We could use this crisis for good and advocate for better access to abortion care. It should be made possible to consult via telephone or get medical receipts with online forms. Moreover, the temporary management of medical abortions – with mifepristone and misoprostol – at home during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy following a telephone or electronic medical consultation, rather than having to take the first dose at a health facility, like it is implemented right now in the UK, could become a long-term solution to improve the access to abortion.  

Women’s health and reproductive rights don’t end during a pandemic and we must continue to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights and improve health and gender equality for all during and after the pandemic.  

A crisis like this offers an opportunity for innovative and sustainable solutions. It also provides a reclaimed sense of shared humanity, where people realize what matters most: the health and safety of their loved ones, and by extension the health and safety of their community, country and fellow global citizens.  

And basic health and safety requires comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.   

Noemi is a representative of IPPF’s European Youth Network; YSAFE.  Subscribe to IPPF’s newsletter for more engaging content about sexual healthcare. 

Shanshan He: Leading the Way for Young People

It all started when I hadn’t seen one girl for a couple of months. I was told her boyfriend had broken up with her because she was pregnant. Then the rumors started. “She borrowed money, she is probably going to take an abortion.” “She should be expelled from school.” “Her parents were angry and they beat her.”

I felt sad that young people weren’t being given the chance to receive comprehensive sex education at school and learn how to protect ourselves. I was outraged that when a girl found herself in these circumstances, people and society simply criticized her behavior rather than providing help and supporting her.

When I first participated in an event hosted by UNFPA in 2014, I was astonished to learn the tremendous number of adolescent girls giving birth every year – 7.3 million in developing countries. In China, 4 out of every 100 unmarried girls aged 15 -24 become pregnant, and almost 90% of those have an abortion.

Taking into account the huge population in China, I cannot imagine how many young people are suffering due to a lack of information and biased gender attitudes.

What youth leadership means to me

I started to volunteer at the China Family Planning Association (CFPA) – an IPPF Member Association – as a youth peer educator. I travelled to different provinces and cities providing training on sexual and reproductive health and rights to young people.

Next, I worked with Dance4life as an international trainer. I delivered Journey4life – a programme designed to build young people’s social and emotional competences so they are able to make healthy choices about their lives and feel confident about their future.

Through my interaction with different generations, I gradually realized that leadership is something that happens within yourself. You feel confident about your life, can see a different world, and are empowered to make changes.

Shanshan He, IPPF Board Member

Being a young leader at IPPF

20% of IPPF’s board must be represented by young people under the age of 25. I was elected to the board of my Member Association, the East and South East Asia & Oceania Region, and the global board. I attend meetings, participate in discussions and vote on the important matters – just as any other member.

My fellow youth representatives and I struggled when we first entered this unfamiliar territory, and had a difficult time finding our position.

Were we supposed to comment and participate solely on youth-related issues? Or should we engage with all the matters and discussions? When we speak, which hat are we wearing – young people who receive services, young activists on the ground, or youth leaders shaping the rules?

We learned that we could define our role. It was important to keep reminding ourselves of our focus and shifting hats to ensure more young people are truly represented.

We didn’t elect a chair among the youth representatives. Instead, the youth meeting is chaired by all the members in rotation. We also share the reporting and presentation responsibilities. This shared leadership approach avoids power dynamics and makes sure we don’t forget why we are all here.

Having been through the journey in IPPF, I realized that there is no point waiting until we ‘grow older’ to be a leader.

Leadership has nothing to do with age or gender. We are the leaders, now and in the future: here and beyond!

All Teachers Need Mandatory Training on FGM

Written by Katrina Lambert (18) and Caitlin Moore (18) – Youth For Change UK members

Ever felt like decision makers aren’t listening to young people? That our voices are ignored and belittled in society? We certainly do sometimes. And we’ve decided to make some noise about it.

We are members of Youth for Change, a global network of youth activists who aim to tackle gender-based violence.

The best way to create positive change is through young people working together to make a difference. We are the ones affected – we should be the ones influencing policy.

Over the last few years we have been tackling the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM is a form of violence against girls. It can result in a lifetime of pain, psychological problems and difficulty in childbirth.

Around 125 million girls have been cut worldwide. An estimated 137,000 girls and women live with FGM in the UK.

In 2017, our research found that 90% of young people surveyed said that learning about FGM as part of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) would help to protect and empower them and their peers. This was the focus of our campaign to get FGM in the RSE curriculum.

Therefore, we were incredibly excited when it was announced that Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) would be compulsory in every school in England as of 2020. Education plays an absolutely crucial role in young people’s lives (as two school students, we can verify this 100%).

Having FGM taught in schools is our chance to take a step forward in ending this harmful practice.

At Youth for Change, when the Department for Education released the online curriculum consultations, we engaged with our networks and communities to strengthen the voice advocating for FGM to be included.

We fed this back to the Department for Education when a group of us met with senior civil servants last year. We also met with Carolyn Harris MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, to discuss the importance of empowering young people through educating them on FGM.

As a result, questions about FGM being a priority area of the new curriculum were raised in Parliamentary Questions, to the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP.

In February 2019, it was celebrations all round. We heard that FGM was to be included as a topic in the curriculum. However, as tempting as it may be, we can’t stop now and pat ourselves on the back.

Yes, we have taken a monumental step in the direction towards eradicating FGM. However, in order to ensure that the new curriculum can appropriately educate and empower young people on the issue, teachers must feel equipped.

This is why Youth for Change is calling for mandatory training for all teachers on FGM.

Our research shows that 94% of young people feel school staff don’t know enough about FGM. If there is any chance of the the new curriculum guidance achieving its fullest positive impact, teachers must be trained.

When students are aware of the issue and feel confident that their teachers understand it, then they will naturally feel more protected and comfortable in opening up conversations. This is essential in increasing reporting and saving the lives of thousands of young women and girls across the UK.

Mandatory training for teachers will ensure that every pupil in the UK gets equal access to the FGM education they deserve, regardless of what part of the country they happen to be educated in.

The benefits of training teachers in FGM are not limited to students. It will also empower teachers to feel equipped to take on their role.

In fully understanding their legal responsibilities, including mandatory reporting, teachers will able to confidently safeguard their students and signpost the correct support. Training is absolutely essential. Without it, the huge changes to the curriculum will not be able to support and educate young people.

What can you do?

Get involved with us as we continue to press for standardised, mandatory training for teachers on FGM! Find us on twitter @YouthForChange. And while you’re here, support all of the other amazing activists in our network, such as IKWRO, who are calling for FGM to be tackled earlier on in education.

We’re not going to stop making noise. We need to ensure that the education young people receive reflects what they want and need to learn. We very much hope that the Government will listen to our calls to introduce mandatory training. Together, we can move even closer to eradicating FGM in the UK once and for all.

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After Disaster Struck Indonesia, I Volunteered to Help

When an earthquake struck Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on 28 September 2018 at around six in the afternoon, I was in a shop around the area of Tondo, East Palu, buying snacks with two of my friends.

I heard a roar, and seconds later the ground swayed. There were people riding motorbikes falling on the streets. I rushed home to the hilly area of town.

Along the way I saw many people already on the side of the road crying. Fear enveloped my heart. I wanted to get home soon.

Once I arrived, I saw a cracked building with its contents scattered. That night there was another earthquake. I was forced to sleep on the road in front of my house.

Previously, I had ventured into the house to pick up a sleeping bag and change of clothes. Four more earthquakes came after that. I tried to call father and my brother many times but I couldn’t contact either of them.

People started to come up from the coastal area. Men were carrying gallons of mineral water and many were wounded and drenched.

We heard that there had been a massive tsunami on the coastal area. Hearing the news, I cried hysterically. I was now even more afraid, because my father lived on the coast.

I almost ventured down to find my father. However, my neighbors and friends tried to calm me down and convinced me not to go right away.

At five o’clock the next morning, I rushed to look for my father. When I arrived, I saw there was no house standing. The cars were all badly damaged by buildings.

I saw a lot of dead bodies. This made me cry and keep looking for my father until I met a teenager, who said he was on the mountain. I ran up to about five kilometers from the location of the tsunami. Then, finally, I found my father.

A month after the disaster, I was invited to join Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA) in Central Sulawesi as a youth volunteer, to provide counseling on reproductive health as well as HIV.

I thought to myself, this activity is noble and I can help others this way. I have knowledge about HIV from my Intra-Campus Organization at university. Now, I can share this knowledge with my peers so that they can protect themselves for the sake of their future.

I told myself: I’m still able to undergo activities, I have complete organs, why don’t I use this to help people in need?

Who else will help them, if not people who care about the lives of friends affected by this disaster?

In addition to providing reproductive health and HIV counseling with other IPPA youth volunteers, I advocate for the rights of young people. After they have had counseling, we ask what obstacles the youth experience. We also listen to the complaints they have, such as lack of clean water or being harassed.

After listening to the young people, I – along with other volunteers – follow up on the issue to the concerned institute. This provides security and comfort for youth, and means that their sexual and reproductive health and rights are being fulfilled.

Written by Indri Walean, Youth Volunteer at IPPA Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.