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The Women Deliver 2019 Conference will be the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women. This year the conference will be taking place in Vancouver, Canada from 3-6th June 2019.

Sahana has been selected as one of the speakers for the session on ‘Youth-Led Activism for Social Change’. As a panellist, she will speak about the challenges that girls and women face in reclaiming decision making power and how youth-led development and participation is the key to develop solutions.

As a young person, Being able to take part in such a big event is a huge step forward in the dynamic of participation and decision making because these types of conferences hold a lot of power to pressure authorities to become more inclusive. This is because we cannot achieve the SDGs targets without the full participation of young people, especially girls and women.  

I am a young Muslim woman from a background and geographical area where development and growth are very poor and outreach of non-governmental organisations is limited. The intensity can be grasped by knowing that only one active organisation called Pehchan is working within the community.

I am privileged to have studied both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at one of the top Universities in India.  I feel changed and motivated. I am confidetly leading my life. This made me want to like shareing my learnings and assist other girls from of my community to also become part of this process of learning and empowerment.

A young girl asking for a PHC in my campaign

I decided to volunteer to contribute towards the community through which I have learnt a lot in the process of my work.

My participation at Women Deliver broke my prejudice that only young people from elite backgrounds have this right to be a part of any decision making and youth participation. After being part of Restless Development, my outlook changed by experiencing participation of young people on all levels whether its Plan-It Girls program which gives a full stake to the community or whether it was advocacy. It’s no more class based and tokenistic participation in the consultation process.

Through the global platform of the Women Deliver Conference, I am expecting to share my learning’s from working with the grass root level organisations. It will be heard by different people from different parts of the world who know about the issues concerning young people such as their sexual rights. I would also share the findings from my one-year long data research project which found that the majority of young people do not know what the sustainable goals are or that something called sexual rights even exists.

Sahana with other change makers discussing the best practices of SRHR

All this neglect and unawareness is there because we live in a society where we don’t get much space to talk about these issues. Even where there is space to talk to friends, the modest culture of how we open up on these topics means the productivity of the talk becomes limited. It is the responsibility of the state to make people aware of their rights to live a healthy life.

Sexual and Reproductive health and rights matter the most to young people, especially living in remote areas because they have poor infrastructure. Most development sector actors, including health practitioners like doctors, tend to be centred in cities which make accessibility a big challenge.

Sahana talking about the health and hygiene of young people to community young girls in Pehchan

Lack of awareness and healthy practices also affect youth as they have to be super conscious to even start a discussion on their sexual health. This has also been the result found in my study with young people about their needs for SRHR. It found that more than 90% of youth do not know about their sexual rights and basic things like how a woman gets pregnant and what are the contraceptive methods one can use for safe and unwanted pregnancy. Even I was not aware of it until I became a youth advocate.

This itself shows how the traditional culture creates hurdles in the process of knowledge and practice of young people whether literate or illiterate. For a woman, it becomes more important to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR) as it underpins the enjoyment of all other human rights and are a prerequisite for equality and justice.

I am looking forward to learning from other participants at the conference through their work experience as the more we share, the more we learn and grow together.

I am also going to facilitate a group work with other participants on the power of youth participation and how youth-led advocacy can lead to social and policy change. Through this, we will try to find out the barriers of youth activism and advocacy and will some solution which we will implement to advance our issue.

Discussion with community women’s on the rights and the patriarchal structure of the community in a rural village of India

Through this opportunity, I will bring the voices of my community’s young girls whose voices are unheard because of the patriarchal structure and fundamentalist views that say that a women should not speak out.

I find this opportunity as a motivation for many girls like me to work hard and do something for themselves rather than just sitting and being oppressed by the structural evil norms of the patriarchy. It will be an eye-opener for many of the families of my own community who thinks that a girl can’t be able to achieve things and hopefully push them to start believing in the power of education and start educating their girls as the dropout rate of girls in my community is very high.

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