Juliet Atoke, Youth Advocate, at the Global Citizens’ Dialogue at the 70th World Health Assembly. Photo Credit: Oliver O’Hanlon.

The World’s Youth Lead The Way

Listen to Young People and Improve Global Maternal Health

The Global Citizens’ Dialogue gives citizens a platform to voice their concerns, solutions, and criticisms. This blog series presents highlights from the 3rd Annual Global Citizens’ Dialogue, which was held during the 70th World Health Assembly and brought together adolescents and youth from Bolivia, Nepal, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and the Philippines with health ministers and other leaders.

My name is Juliet Atoke and I come from the Kole District in Northern Uganda. I am 17 years old and a student in primary seven class. I was honored to be able to speak during the Global Citizens’ Dialogue at the World Health Assembly this year which gave me an international platform to talk on my own behalf but also on behalf of other children in Uganda.

I have experienced in my own community how children and youth have contributed to better health care for women, children and adolescents through engaging with local authorities.

Attendees at the Global Citizens’ Dialogue at the World Health Assembly.

A community committee working to improve health care informed me and other children about Ugandan health policies and which services we had the right to in our community. A community meeting was organized at the health centre and we children were given an opportunity to assess the reality at the health center, and compare that with what was in the national health policy. We discussed as children alongside with the adults and identified challenges that should be addressed.

The children identified a number of challenges in health care delivery at the sub county and district level: there were not enough staff present, there was limited availability of drugs, no ambulance, no electricity, and no fence or security arrangements at the health facility which led to theft of the property by both patients and staff.

Meetings were arranged at both sub county and district level for the community to discuss these issues with local authorities. We recommended to the authorities that they add more staff to the facility, ensure there is access to drugs, and that they should put a fence around the health centres to keep the property of the health facility safe.

We are happy that the government listened to us children and acted on our recommendations. At the Aboke Health Centre, 5 additional staff have been posted at the facility, and health workers now come early to the Centre to attend to us. A new fence has been put up around the facility, and I believe it is now more secure than before.

When young people speak, their views should be considered. This will give energy to young people knowing that their views are heard and acted upon.

I also participated in a youth forum at the national level in Kampala on May 18 of this year, where members of Parliament and representatives from the Ministry of Health were present. I was representing the children in my community and sharing our experiences and recommendations, together with children from other parts of Uganda.

In this forum, the young people recommended that space should be created for members of Parliament to interact directly with young people, that children’s views should be considered in decision making on health, that the government should take action to improve transport and communication to ensure easy access to health facilities across Uganda, and that parents that force their children into early marriage should be arrested.

On behalf of the children and youth in Uganda, I call on global health leaders to:

· Put adolescent friendly services at every health facility

· Ensure young people are allowed to access health services without being asked so many questions. For example, when a young mother goes for antenatal services, she should not be verbally abused because she has fallen pregnant, but she should be helped.

· Ensure that young people are given the opportunity to interact with members of parliament and government at every level, to contribute to decision making and monitoring of services.

· When young people speak, their views should be considered. This will give energy to young people knowing that their views are heard and acted upon.

In 2014, a group of civil society organizations, including World Vision, Save the Children, White Ribbon Alliance and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, began working together to advance citizen engagement and citizen-led accountability for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at local, national and global levels. Since then, the Coalition has supported more than a thousand citizen hearings in more than 22 countries across the world, giving citizens the opportunity to be heard on matters about their own health, and share their recommendations for how health care can be improved in their community, district and country.

Donate to White Ribbon Alliance and help protect and promote women’s health around the world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. We harness the power of local women and men to achieve lasting change. Our approach is working. Subscribe to WRA Voices and follow WRA on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the work White Ribbon Alliance does around the world.

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