RIATT-ESA partnered with REPSSI to co-host the Children and Youth Forum 2-3 September 2017, ahead of the Psychosocial Support Forum. The pre-conference brought together more than 80 young delegates between the ages of 12 and 25 years, from 13 eastern and southern African countries including: Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Most of the delegates were students but among them were former child brides, student leaders, peer educators, junior journalists, community mobilisers, and living with HIV and disabilities.
The youth delegates discussed through facilitated dialogues and presentations their observations, experiences, perspectives and ideas on key development issues. Guest of honour Jake Glaser brought a strong message of courage in fighting stigma related to HIV, calling on the youth to not let their circumstances or heath define who they are. True to form, the youth asked some very personal questions! The messages empowered the youth to use the opportunity to take action by calling governments and civil society to support and protect children in Africa.
Click here to watch Jake’s Key note address to the youth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njz-2TwYerk
Some Issues identified by the youth as needing urgent attention include:
- Difficulties encountered by teenagers who become pregnant in being re-admitted and staying in school to complete their studies
- Violence against children, especially rape of girls
- Family and cultural pressures on girls to marry young
- Income opportunities for former child brides so they can support themselves and their children
- The challenges of growing up with HIV including treatment adherence and dating
- Pressures on young boys to make incomes to support their families at the expense of their education
- The increasing use of drugs among in and out of school boys
- The broadening of the formal school curriculum to include music and sport as career options
- Tokenism versus meaningful participation of young people in policy and programme development
Harnessing the power of social media for advocacy was a key theme at the pre-conference. After going through a capacity building session the youth submitted a blogs which will be shared through the RIATT-ESA website until an independent platform can be set up. Partners will be invited to link and further disseminate them. The blogs will be judged by an independent panel and two winners will be awarded a tablet which will go a long way to support their advocacy efforts.
Follow @RIATTESA on twitter for updates and highlights posted during the Children and Youth Forum.
RIATT-ESA deeply appreciates the support of its partners, without whom this event would not have succeeded. A special thank you to Jake Glaser and his team from EGPAF, and Deborah Ewing and her team at the AIDS Foundation of South Africa