[:en]Written by: Tikhala Itaye, President African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN), East and Southern Africa

Participation of young people is key in achieving the long term vision of ESA Commitment targets. Young people should not be viewed as passive recipients of development initiatives but as key partners in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these programmes. Having young people’s buy in is crucial to progress their access to health services and sexuality education.

So much review is being done on the comprehensive sexual education curriculum (CSE) across the region but we need to involve more young people as partners to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Earlier in 2015, I had the opportunity to observe life skills education in a few selected public schools in the Northern region of Namibia. I was extremely shocked to see that teachers hold their own personal values on HIV prevention and at times omit certain prevention methods because of these values.

Learners are deprived of all the information they need in order to make informed decisions. Instead of telling a young girl, “Don’t get pregnant because it is bad”, tell her what and how she can overcome social pressure, how she can access HTC, and how she can prevent it. There is a harsh reality on what is in the curriculum and how the curriculum is taught that is affecting many young learners from making informed decisions.

Young people need to amplify their voices and be advocates for change themselves and change the course of development. More than that, representation goes beyond self-fulfilment, it is also a matter of advocating for those that do not have a platform to do so.

I like what Julita Onabanjo, Regional Director for UNFPA Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, once said: “Do not forget where you come from, remember those left behind. They also need to be built.”

We have to keep in mind those adolescents that don’t have

access to school education as there are still countries that do not provide comprehensive sexual education in schools.

Civil society organisations have an important role in reaching and encouraging the youth. In many cases they are the only means to reach adolescents without access to school education and in community settings where it is difficult for young people to access adequate information and reproductive health services.

Even if our backgrounds are often burdened by social-economic issues like unemployment, denied access to reproductive health services or a lack of an enabling environment for growth and development, as an advocate, we should be an anchor for social change.[:]