The purpose of this conference was to rally young people to discuss and make recommendations to key commitments made regarding the health of young people in Africa and specifically on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (ASRHR). These include the ESA Commitment 2013, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the African Union Commitments. A rallying call promoted during the conference was “Nothing for us without us!” This is in recognition that many promises, policies and commitments have been developed without the participation of young people. Further to this, many of these remain unimplemented and young people have had limited knowledge on how to pursue the implementation in their countries.
African YMCAs were represented by 8 youth from Kenya YMCA and 2 staff from AAYMCA and Kenya YMCA. The youth were drawn from Kenya YMCA Branches in Nairobi and its environs and together they would go on to facilitate a #SexManenoz session as part of the conference track on Skills Building. The session hosted 30 participants to freely discuss sexual reproductive health issues through spoken word, value judgement exercises and the human library. One of the participants at the session remarked that “Sex manenoz session in the afternoon was so much fun! Never has a conversation on sex, sexuality and everything in the spectrum in between been discussed with such rawness and candour!”
Other activities in the conference included exploratory sessions on the commitments made at continental level, debates on contentious issues including on Comprehensive Sexual Education in schools that is a key aspect of the East and Southern Africa Commitment of 2013 and that has been received with mixed reactions in different countries. The YMCA Youth participants made the movement and their peers proud with their articulation of issues going on to feature prominently in the debates and even win a prize for their active contribution. In the closing ceremony, #SexManenoz, was recognised by Dr. Githinji, the AMREF Group CEO as among innovative ways in which young people can access information on Sexual and Reproductive Health in a way that appeals to them.
This experience confirms the need for the YMCA to go out more and be heard more. To show case our winning approaches to engaging young people. Already at this conference, one of the participants while remarking on how much she enjoyed #SexManenoz said that she feels that the YMCA is “a sleeping giant” a term that is not new in reference to the movement. Our active participation in this and other similar forums therefore will prove that the giant is sleeping no more.
Source: Purity Kiguatha, Programmes Executive AAYMCA