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Around 75 % of the population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is under the age of 35. Young people in this region remain one of the most vulnerable and affected groups in the areas of HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender inequality.

SADC Member States have made strong commitments to put young people at the centre of their development efforts and strengthen investments in young people’s SRHR within several global, continental and regional frameworks, working towards ending AIDS by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  

It is against this background that UNAIDS, in partnership with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, UNFPA, UNESCO, African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) and Restless Development convened a Youth Indaba in October 2019 in South Africa.

“AIDS is still the main cause of death among young women in the SADC region. We need the boldness and courage of young people to walk the last mile. Young people need to know that they are fighting for leaving no one behind,” said Catherine Sozi, Director for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, during the indaba.

The aim of the indaba was to strengthen capacity and collaboration between young parliamentarians and youth activists to ensure that SRHR, HIV and gender equality are prioritized within national development agendas.

“It is inappropriate and unacceptable to design any strategy, policy or law without the involvement of young people. We cannot do anything that pertains to our future resources without youth involvement,” said the Vice President of SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF), Isaac Mmemo Magagula.

The programme of the Youth Indaba included several interactive sessions on innovative approaches to youth-led accountability, opportunities to share best practices and build networks and partnerships.

The last day of the meeting consisted of an intergenerational dialogue between the young participants and senior Parliamentarians and development partners, focused on placing young people at the centre of development, including supporting meaningful youth engagement and youth-led accountability.

According to SADC, people under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political leadership positions. Therefore youth-led accountability ensures that young people are engaged and participate in decision-making that affects their lives and exercise accountability over those decisions.

“We commit to work collaboratively as youth researchers, advocates and young MPs for the achievement of set targets and commitments concerning HIV, SRHR, and gender equality for all young people in the SADC region, including being accountable to the constituencies we represent and the young people and communities we serve,” said Rahma Suleiman from AfriYAN in Tanzania, reading from a Joint Youth Commitment on youth-led accountability which was later on presented at the ICPD+25 Summit in Nairobi.  

Participants developed the outcome document referred to as the “Tshwane Declaration on strengthening youth-led accountability in SADC parliaments for delivering on commitments on SRHR, HIV and gender equality”, which was later adopted by the SADC PF’s Plenary Assembly in Namibia in December 2019. The adoption is groundbreaking in that it promotes youth-led accountability with SADC.

By adopting the resolution, the assembly resolved to undertake several actions required to improve young people’s right to health and empowerment using their legislative, oversight and representation mandate. This includes the amendment of laws and policies that limit young people’s freedom of expression, choice and access to integrated HIV and SRHR services, comprehensive sexuality education social protection and harm reduction services for young key populations. – (original story via UNAIDS http://rstesa.unaids.org/

Government officials from ministries of education and health from 20 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa met from 18 and 19 June 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa to review the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Commitment progress. The meeting brought together core members of the technical coordinating group, select civil society organisations (CSO) at country and regional levels, United Nations, SADC PF, and development partners.

The Technical Coordinating Group (TCG), under the leadership of UNESCO and UNFPA, with support from UNAIDS, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) Secretariats, plays a key role in the management of the ESA Commitment process and the implementation of the accountability mechanism. Each year, a TCG face-to-face meeting is held to discuss implementation and progress towards ESA Commitment targets.

Speaking at the meeting, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, and his UNFPA counterpart for Eastern and Southern Africa Region, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, applauded governments for their commitment, and called on the stakeholders to begin looking at post 2020 plans when the Commitment is meant to expire. They emphasised the need to accelerate efforts in providing CSE, and access to SRHR services for adolescents and young people.

This year’s TCG meeting focused on dialogue, debates and interactions, particularly on sharing the ‘how’ of HIV and Health Education and youth friendly health services provision. It highlighted tangible regional and national actions needed in the spirt of the Step Up and Deliver 2020 Roadmap. Moreover, in 2017, the TCG commissioned the CSO Platform to produce a regional report on the implementation of the ESA Commitment, looking at issues of accountability, coordination, resources, and youth leadership. The report formed the framework for discussion at the TCG. The meeting also agreed on the roll-out of the proposed early and unintended pregnancy campaign resulting from a situational analysis, which was commissioned in 2017.

The African Youth and Adolescents Networking on Population and Development (AfriYAN) 2017 General Assembly and capacity building workshop for young people in Eastern and Southern Africa opens in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

Drawing youth leaders from Eastern and Southern Africa, the General Assembly will run from the 7th to the 9th of November 2017 will usher in a new cohort of young leaders whilst bringing in renewed energy and robust innovation that will guide AfriYAN ESA to the next level of relevance, influence and accountability.

Under the guidance of UNFPA, Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT), UNESCO and other development and implementing partners, the General Assembly aims to foster the development of a better coordinated,managed and structured network that will further the mandate of AfriYAN ESA at regional and national level in the East and Southern Africa region.

#YouthSRHNOW is a social media campaign to mobilise youth engagement in promoting action on commitments made by 20 East and Southern Africa countries in the ESA Commitment (2013), which calls for access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Youth Friendly Health Services for young people in the region. The campaign will run throughout November and much of December 2017.

The main hashtag used across all social media platforms will be #YouthSRHNOW. In addition, dialogue on Comprehensive Sexuality Education will rally around the call #NotWithoutCSE, while on Youth Friendly Health Services it will be #NotWithoutYFS.

Join us for this exciting campaign by following and engaging with our platforms on Twitter and Facebook today.

For more information, please contact Young People Today through: esacommitment@unesco.org

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