09 June 2017

The evolution need in youth engagement

2017 Global Adolescent Health Conference—Reflection Blog
By: Alyssa Frampton

The 2017 Global Adolescent Health Conference in Ottawa brought together many stakeholders working towards the goal of better health for all young people, but the most important in my opinion, were the many young change makers who are working to deliver desired health outcomes for themselves and their peers.

 

Nothing for me, without me—it’s a phrase heard across youth events and conversations daily, and this event was no different. Young people recognize their role in sustainable development—it is up to civil society, governments, and others to get these youth voices on the stage and to the mic consistently.

 

We want a seat at the table, access to funding streams, and opportunities to develop our experiences. To be effective advocates for ourselves and generations to come, we need a commitment from global leadership that our views will be solicited, our voices will be heard, and our efforts will be supported.

 

My most meaningful experience from the conference was meeting Patrick Mwesigye. Patrick is a prime example of a young change maker who has tirelessly worked to create a platform bringing the voice of local youth into health discussions.  He’s also an example of a young person struggling to take his efforts to the next level because of limited resources.

 

Patrick leads the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF), which on top of many other projects, works to provide sustainable sanitary napkins and education about menstruation with dignity to young Ugandan women.  Their work is not just inspiring—it’s practical and addresses a basic human right.

 

There are tons of ways to support youth engagement and advocacy – one practical resolution is a complete rework of the funding process for young leaders who may not have the support of a large organization behind them.  People like Patrick are inherent change makers—imagine how much farther their impact could be if only given the opportunity to apply for such funding. Patrick and his team budget every hour they can to these critical programs. If they have proven to be successful and praised by many—shouldn’t the opportunity to sustain them be more accessible?

 

To evolve from token to nominal to sustained meaningful engagement of young people, more must be done. Give us platforms to voice our concerns. Afford the opportunity to apply for funding. Ask our opinions and then listen to our responses. Recognize that many of us like Patrick have already taken our future into our own hands and are moving full speed ahead. Come along for the ride and clear some roadblocks along the way.