With young people, for young people

IYAFP and FP2020 partner to empower the next generation of family planning leaders

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Prashant Panjiar

Ramya Jawahar Kudekallu, 27, of Bangalore, India, summed it up: “Sexual and reproductive health rights are human rights. It is that simple, inalienable, and non-negotiable. Access to contraceptives speaks to the expansion of this right for young women and girls… In order for us to promise that these services are available to every single woman, the investment in youth needs to continue and increase.”

Ramya is an executive working with nearly 60 Country Coordinators for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP), a youth-led organization dedicated to cultivating a new generation of leaders between the ages of 15 and 30 on family planning. IYAFP was founded in 2013 on the principle that young people are uniquely situated to identify and overcome obstacles to accessing safe, comprehensive, and quality family planning services in their communities.

Integrating the youth perspective is critical to achieving the goals of Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global partnership which supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they want to have. Worldwide, there are 1.8 billion individuals between the ages 10 and 24, and over a billion of those young people live in FP2020’s 69 focus countries. Grounded in principles of rights and empowerment, family planning policies and programs must integrate and reflect the diverse lived experiences of young people worldwide.

Thanks to advocacy and outreach efforts of organizations like IYAFP, decision-makers around the world are reaching out to young people and including them at high-level family planning conferences and events, such as the International Conference on Family Planning, Women Deliver Conference, and the United Nations General Assembly. Last year, FP2020 added Youth Representative Margaret Bolaji to its Reference Group, and the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health has embraced adolescent and youth engagement as part of its strategy to advance sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn and adolescent health.

IYAFP now seeks to build on the success and visibility that young people have garnered at the global level by strengthening youth engagement at the national and sub-national levels. In three years IYAFP, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, has developed a powerful network of over 1,600 young people from nearly 60 countries, who work together to share knowledge, exchange ideas and take action. Their collective efforts (as seen in their annual report) reach thousands through social media, events, conferences, and special projects spearheaded by young people. IYAFP also partners with organizations like Management Sciences for Health and Pathfinder International on youth engagement efforts, and is currently seeking additional funds from other donors to expand their youth-led and youth-implemented programs.

This is just the beginning.

FP2020 and IYAFP envision a world in which young people are empowered, included, and supported in the family planning community for years to come. This includes providing young people with the tools they need to effect change globally and locally — speaking on the world stage and taking action in their communities and countries. FP2020 and IYAFP are committed to working with young people — never tokenizing them — and creating structures to ensure meaningful and sustainable youth engagement on family planning at all levels.

With these goals at the forefront, FP2020 and IYAFP are working together to build a network of empowered, knowledgeable, and action-oriented young people like Ramya and her peers — and helping strengthen collaboration with decision-makers in their countries.

This entails building capacity by offering young people technical and skills-based learning opportunities, identifying funding opportunities for youth-led efforts, and connecting IYAFP country coordinators to FP2020’s network of donor and government focal points and in-country partners.

Ramya and her IYAFP peers are key to harnessing the explosive potential of this new generation of family planning leaders, which equates to progress for all. There is still work to do — and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

Jillian Gedeon, Co-Executive Director, IYAFP

Emily Sullivan, Youth Engagement Manager, FP2020

To learn more or be a part of this good work, attend IYAFP’s webinar (aka virtual Brown Bag) on Thursday March 9th at 12pm EST. Register here.

Or, contact Jill at jgedeon@iyafp.org and Emily at esullivan@familyplanning2020.org.

Explore IYAFP’s countries and Country Coordinators.

Meet some of the IYAFP youth: Joan Amanda Baruna (Uganda) and Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma (Zambia), and for more stories from young people speaking out on family planning visit the storytelling blog Family Planning Voices.

Check out IYAFP’s suggested list of resources for youth.

Connect with IYAFP on Facebook and Twitter or email contact@iyafp.org.

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