The Yes I Do (YID) program is a joint program of AMREF, CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality, KIT (Royal Tropical Institute), Plan Nederland, and Rutgers WPF, and their local partners in Africa and Asia. YID aims for a world in which adolescent girls can freely decide if, when and whom to marry, when and with whom to have children, and are protected from female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). To achieve this goal, the YID program has five different pathways of change: changing the community attitude towards early and forced marriages, teenage pregnancies and FGM/C, ensuring meaningful youth participation (MYP), Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), economic empowerment of young women and girls, and advocacy. The YID program is implemented in seven countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Indonesia. YID is a partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will run from 2016-2020.
The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of international principles that demonstrate how international human rights law can be applied in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Developed at an expert meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2006, the document contains 29 principles and recommendations to governments, regional intergovernmental institutions, civil society, and the United Nations, and details how international human rights law can be applied to SOGI issues, and provides argumentation for why and how States are obliged to protect and fulfil these rights for all. The principles did not create any new rights, instead they show how rights which are internationally agreed upon, and which States are legally bound to enforce, also protect the rights and dignity of LGBTI people. For this reason the Yogyakarta Principles are an excellent advocacy tool which can help LGBTI activists hold their governments accountable to their international obligations.
The UN defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. CHOICE applies a broader definition of youth: young people aged between 10 to 29.
The role of Youth Ambassador SRHR was set up by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality in 2015. Through this program, the MOFA and CHOICE, work together to give young people a voice and a platform to advocate for their sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and their meaningful participation in all areas of decision-making; at the national, regional and international level. This partnership contributes to the development of progressive and inclusive policies for young people and emphasizes the importance of meaningful youth participation in the design, development and implementation of sexual health policies. The Youth Ambassador provides an important link, connecting policymakers with the sexual health realities of young people in the Netherlands and around the world.
The Youth Ambassador for SRHR joined the Dutch delegation to the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) in 2015 and 2016, as a civil society representative. Their position on the delegation gave the Youth Ambassador access to official and informal negotiation spaces which are normally off limits to young people, and put the Youth Ambassador in a unique position to connect and support the international SRHR youth movement during these processes, and help amplify youth voices from around the world. CHOICE sees the Youth Ambassador as an example of a best practice which can be replicated by other governments to ensure young people’s meaningful engagement within national, regional and international spaces and processes.
The Youth Bulge, also referred to as the Youth Dividend, Demographic Dividend, is a phenomenon whereby high rates of birth and low rates of infant mortality result in a large percentage of the population being under the age of 25. For example, in Africa, children under age 15 account for 41 % of the population in 2015 and young persons aged 15 to 24 account for a further 19 %. Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia, which have seen greater declines in fertility, have smaller percentages of children (26 and 24%, respectively) and similar percentages of youth (17 and 16 % respectively). In total, these three regions are home to 1.7 billion children and 1.1 billion young persons in 2015.
Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS), are health services which take the realities and needs and priorities of young people in a specific location into account. Truly youth-friendly services are designed, monitored and reviewed, and sometimes even implemented with the meaningful participation of young people from the location where these services will be offered.
This concept is very much related to meaningful youth participation – for CHOICE it means that young people are empowered to take up leadership roles in different areas of their lives, but especially in regards to claiming their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Examples of youth leadership include young people taking meaningful roles on a board, a delegation, becoming members of parliament or taking leading roles in different political parties and government, taking part in decision-making spaces, and of course starting or being a part of a youth-led spaces and organizations. Importantly, Youth Leadership is not as simple as just putting young people in leadership positions, young people should be empowered and given the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to take on this role. For example, young people (and the people they work with) often need capacity strengthening in different areas to ensure that they are able to participate meaningfully.
A Youth-Adult Partnership (YAP) is a partnership between young people and adults where both parties have equal decision making power (they are ‘partners’). Importantly, young people and adults are seen as equal partners, who recognize the value and contribution of both parties. Both young people and adults are meaningfully involved at each step of the way, each brining in their own unique expertise and skillset.
When looking at SRHR-programmes YAP can also help empower young people, and make them realize that they have an active role to play in society which can lead them to be agents of change in other areas of life/society as well. Young people may also have increased respect in a community, and may have the chance to build their knowledge and skills, thereby also improving their career opportunities. YAP can also result in the fulfilment of young people's rights, which like empowerment, is really an end in itself! For a youth-serving organization, a YAP can bring greater credibility to their work, and can ensure that their programmes are more responsive to the realities of young people and are thereby also more effective. A YAP can also increase the number of human resources available, and may even expand the reach of the programme. YAP can also be a big incentive for funding agencies to invest in a particular programme, and shows that an organization truly believes in and practices meaningful youth participation.
The definition is already in the name - youth-led advocacy is advocacy led by young people! This means that young people are meaningfully involved in every aspect of the advocacy process – from selecting the issue, the audience, the advocacy strategies, to conducting advocacy themselves, and to monitoring and evaluating the successes and the areas for improvement.
Youth-led advocacy is important because it meaningfully involves young people to ensure that their voices are heard and taken into account. When it comes to issues that concern young people directly, like a policy on sexuality education for example, then it is even more imperative that young people are involved meaningfully in order to ensure that advocacy strategies accurately reflect the needs and lived realities of young people in that context. Youth-led advocacy therefore also increases the effectiveness, reach, and legitimacy of advocacy strategies. Advocates are more likely to be taken seriously if they are seen as having a relevant constituency that supports their rights.
Youth-led advocacy can be initiated by young people or adults, and may involve a youth-adult partnership. The important distinction is that young people participate meaningfully, and that the advocacy agenda and methodologies are youth-led.
CHOICE prides itself on being a youth-led organization, but what do we actually mean when we say that? Youth-led means that an organization is led by young people, and usually also works for young people (although this is not necessary!). As the name suggests, for an organization to be truly youth-led all of its decision-making positions must be filled by young people. These positions should not be symbolic – young people should have real decision-making power and are leading the organization. Furthermore, for an organization to be youth-led most, if not all, of its members should be young people, although it is possible for some ‘adults’ to have a role in the organization. For example, CHOICE’s financial controller is over the age of 29.