In December 2017 Restless Development teamed up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to catalyze a global youth movement with the power of young people driving accountability for reproductive and sexual health rights and gender equality.
The Youth Accountability Advocates have contributed to the youth-led accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals and FP2020 through data-driven research in various communities across India and Tanzania.
A year on from the beginning of the pilot project, we speak to Youth Advocates in India.
Afreen Naaz from Ranchi, India joined Restless Development last year, “I want to be a part of an organisation which works on gender equality and girls education.” She is currently working on Restless Developments Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) project, collecting data on people’s knowledge of sex education and creating awareness about sexual health.
Cultural and educational barriers make Afreens Job very difficult. “People don’t use contraceptives because they don’t know how to use it. Some people feel ashamed when buying contraception. Some girls don’t use sanitary products because of financial issues. Many girls don’t even know about sanitary products and use dirty clothes or dry leaves.”
“Some people are so conservative that they avoid talking about these issues and hence it becomes difficult to communicate with them.” Even Afreen use to be hesitant when talking about sex and periods. “After becoming a Youth Accountability Advocate my confidence has increased and I have learnt many things from my training.”
“The joy of working with young people is that each young person is unique, they bring their own life experience, needs and expectation. Young People are the most intriguing audience. They have the same rights as an adult but their circumstances create challenges that can only be met with determination, creativity and integrity.”
Afreen believes that people in decision-making positions need background data on the importance of the sexual health needs of young people. “If young people have access to health and education they become a powerful force for economic development and positive change.”