All young people have the right to a healthy sexual life. To make this happen, it is vital that young people stand up for their rights. CHOICE not only practices youth-led advocacy itself but also seeks to strengthen the capacities of young people worldwide in order to engage successfully in advocacy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). In addition to young people, CHOICE also provides capacity strengthening for our adult partners and stakeholders on how to stimulate and ensure meaningful youth participation, youth-led advocacy, young people’s SRHR, and productive youth-adult partnerships.
Capacity is defined here as having the knowledge, skills, and ability to effectively and sustainably (1) meaningfully participate in decision-making processes in regards to the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of relevant programmes, policies and legislation, (2) conduct advocacy for SRHR on the local, national, regional, and international level, and (3) successfully share this capacity with other youth people across the world. Importantly, capacity strengthening for CHOICE is a two-way street – we aim to learn as much from our partners as they do from us!
CHOICE employs several capacity strengthening strategies: developing and facilitating trainings on key topics, developing youth-friendly resources and tools, learning-by-doing, mentoring, linking and learning, and the take-two principle.
A group of people with shared concerns. UN Commissions like the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) often have several caucuses engaging in advocacy together (e.g. the Women’s Rights Caucus, the SOGI Caucus). There are many benefits to working within a caucus, including: more effective and strengthened advocacy; increased capacity and resources; knowledge/skill-building; networking etc.
Being voluntarily unmarried and/or not engaging in any sexual activities. Reasons to choose to be celibate are often religious, but do not have to be. Similar to abstinence, different people have different definitions of what celibacy entails. For some, it may mean no sexual contact, including masturbation. For others, it may mean no penetration (oral, anal, vaginal).
A person whose gender identity corresponds to the gender ascribed by their biological sex at birth. This term is often used to indicate the opposite of someone who is transgender.
Citizens and organizations outside of the government and private sector. CHOICE is a Civil Society Organization (CSO).
The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) helps the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to monitor, review, and assess the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA) at the national, regional, and international level, and advises ECOSOC on: issues and trends regarding population and development strategies, the implementation of the ICPD PoA etc.. Every year member states gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss issues related to population and development and to negotiate a series of action-oriented outcome documents in the form of agreed conclusions and resolutions based on one of the issues highlighted in the ICPD PoA.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) helps the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to monitor, review, and assess the implementation of the Beijing Programme for Action (BPfA) at the national, regional, and international level, and advises ECOSOC on issues and trends regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment, and helps ECOSOC to set global standards and policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women and girls worldwide. Every year member states gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and to negotiate a series of action-oriented outcome documents in the form of agreed conclusions and resolutions based on one of the issues highlighted in the BPfA.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is a form of sexuality education which recognizes that information on human sexuality alone is not enough, and therefore seeks to equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to determine and enjoy their sexuality in all spheres of life. CSE can contain multiple components such as gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV and AIDS (including information about services and clinics), sexual citizenship, pleasure, consent, violence, sexual and gender diversity and relationships. At CHOICE we believe that CSE programs should be rights-based, gender-sensitive, and sex-positive. Furthermore, a well thought-out CSE program will take the local lived realities of young people into account, this means that while programs may follow the same basic structure they should be adapted to the local context. CSE programs do not necessarily need to be school-based.
A condom is a material which can be used during oral, anal and/or vaginal sex to create a physical barrier that significantly decreases the probability of pregnancy and of contracting some (but not all) Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). There are two main types of condoms, male (designed to cover the penis) and female (designed to cover the inside of the vagina). Condoms are usually made of latex or nitrile rubber, and come in a range of colors, flavors, textures and sizes. With ‘perfect’ use (using a new condom each time, placing and removing it correctly, using only water-based lubricants, and using them consistently) male condoms are successful at preventing pregnancy 98% of the time. With correct and consistent use female condoms are 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. Importantly, even with correct and consistent use condoms cannot completely remove the risk of pregnancy or contracting an STI.
Sexual consent is an agreement between two or more people to engage in a sexual activity. Consent is all about communication (verbal, physical etc.) and continuing to engage in a sexual activity where someone has not consented (including if they are below the age of consent, too intoxicated, or it is a situation where they feel pressured to comply) is sexual assault and is criminally punishable in many places. Note that how sexual consent is legally or socially defined varies greatly geographically. Also note that while consent does not need to be verbal, explicitly agreeing to something makes it easier for all parties to respect each other’s boundaries.
In the CHOICE Flower of Participation, consulted and informed is a situation where (young) people give advice on projects or programs developed and executed by adults (consulted). Young people are informed about how their advice will be used and what the outcome is of the decisions the adults have made (informed).
Contraceptives help reduce the chance of pregnancy by creating either a hormonal or a physical barrier. It is important to note that most contraceptives do not protect against STIs. Hormonal contraceptives prevent the egg from being released, and include oral (birth control) pills, hormonal patches and injections, implants under the skin, and vaginal rings. Emergency contraceptives are hormonal pills that must be taken within 72 to 120 hours of having sex without using a contraceptive, to reduce the chance of pregnancy. Physical barriers prevent sperm from reaching the egg, and include male and female condoms, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, and intra-uterine devices. CHOICE advocates for universal access to the full range of contraceptives, regardless of age, marital status etc., as an important part of respecting and protecting young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
In terms of the United Nations, a convention is an agreement between people or countries where everyone agrees to follow the same law.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is a legally binding international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is one of the most broadly endorsed human rights treaties, with 189 countries having ratified it. Because it is a legally-binding treaty, it can be an important entry-point for advocacy. In terms of SRHR, CEDAW is also the only human rights treaty with a strong focus on the reproductive rights of women, and which explicitly mentions culture and tradition as potential barriers to gender equality.
Countries who have ratified CEDAW are asked to submit national reports which describe the situation of women’s human rights in their country, and what policies or programs the government is implementing to comply with their treaty obligations every four years. At the same time other organizations may also submit so-called ‘shadow reports’, which may provide an alternative picture on the situation of women’s human rights and gender equality in the country. These documents are reviewed by the CEDAW Committee which then presents their Concluding Observations – a document which also highlights areas of concern and provides recommendations for further action that the government is encouraged to take.
The Optional Protocol (OP) is a vital part of CEDAW which allows individuals or groups in countries who have ratified the OP to file a complaint against their government for ‘grave or systemic violations’ of the Convention. The Committee then begins an inquiry procedure and may rule that a country has violated the rights of the complainant(s).
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a human rights treaty which was adopted in 1989, and which outlines the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. Like CEDAW, the CRC is a legally binding document, and compliance to the convention is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Countries that have ratified the CRC are expected to submit periodic reports detailing the situation of children’s rights in the country, as well as progress made towards the local implementation of the CRC. The CRC has three optional protocols: the first restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts; the second prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; and the third which allows children to file complaints when their rights have been violated.
The CRC is considered a ground-breaking document which changed the way that children and adolescents are viewed and treated – instead of passive objects of care or even as possessions, they began to be seen as active agents and human beings with their own rights.