What’s happening in the world of IYAFP: Volume I

Lessons learnt from EuroNGOs and our new partnership with YouAct

Last week we had our Executive members Marietta Wildt and Jillian Gedeon attend EuroNGOs, an annual conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) that took place in Brussels from September 26–28th. We are happy to share lessons learnt and conference outcomes.

THANK YOU to everybody who was involved with organizing this incredible conference. This year’s theme about promoting SRHR in a time of growing populism was so timely and critical for Europe.

It was the first time either of us got to visit Brussels, the town known for its chocolate and picturesque cobblestone streets, but we were so happy to bring home a few interesting insights.

Let’s see, what did we learn?

1) We need to combine our efforts. The sexual and reproductive health and rights field has different players from the family planning field. One of our missions was to see how we can bridge these divides and all work together towards ultimately saving the lives of millions around the world.

2) Funding is an issue for everybody. This year’s theme highlighted how the rise of populism is putting SRHR advocacy at risk. The challenges organizations are facing are diverse but comparable around the world and we need to work together instead of competing.

3) Governments play a huge role in organizational activities and it’s important to diversify where we get our support from. The Global Gag Rule implemented by the United States of America has created a huge shift in global funding and policy. The Global Gag Rule is a US-policy that prohibits any international organization receiving U.S. aid from promoting abortion. “Doctors, midwives, and nurses could not even mention the word abortion — much less provide abortion services with their own funds — even if it was legal in their country, or if a woman asks. Organizations that did not meet this condition lost all U.S. funding, including essential supplies of contraceptives.” (Engender Health). We learned about the importance of diversifying sources of support and were privileged to hear from representatives of the SheDecides movement, an international initiative set up to raise political and financial support for sexual and reproductive health.

4) We need to stop siloing SRHR topics. During the youth pre-meeting we discussed approaches on how to influence decision makers. Youth from different cultures and contexts stressed that we can’t tie all SRHR topics together but rather need to look at them individually and push them one by one to politicians. One might agree to one SRHR topic, but that does not necessarily include all. Think: LGBTQ rights, abortion, child marriage and contraception are not necessarily tied together and we need to apply them specifically to their political and cultural context.

EuroNGOs was really just dipping our first toe into the European SRHR waters. We met incredible allies from amazing organizations such as Rutgers,FHI 360, UNFPA, IPPF, Plan International, ForwardUK, SheDecides, RFSU (Swedish Association for Sexuality Education), and many more. Thanks for all the warm welcomes!

One huge treat was meeting so many impressive youth organizations. Since we had already been in touch with some of them, it felt like meeting old friends with new faces. From CHOICE to the Youth Coalition, YSAFE, Y-Peer, Dance4Life, and Sex vs the Stork, it was inspiring and fun!

And of course our newest partner: YouACT. Check out our celebratory photo which we took at the Belgian Federal Parliament. Yes, you read that correctly — the Belgian government let us use their beautiful halls for a fun truth or dare conference session.

YouAct is an entirely youth led, independent NGO working to support young people in advocating for their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Europe. It’s made up of youth volunteers from different European Council Member states. Like IYAFP, YouAct aims for a world where young people have access to accurate information and youth friendly services enabling them to decide freely and responsibly about all aspects of their sexuality and reproductive lives. We are so looking forward to supporting each other, enhancing our efforts, and having each other’s back on the fight for SRHR. We can’t wait to tell you about our upcoming projects — stay tuned.

We had an inspiring time that sparked many new ideas and collaborations. Thanks, EuroNGOs, and hopefully see you all next year!

Sincerely,

Marietta and Jillian