In mid-December, 2016, the Ouagadougou Partnership (OP) held its fifth annual meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. More than 300 people from around the world came together to discuss the challenges, successes and priorities around family planning and the demographic dividend. Young people like Romaric Ouitona, 23, stood out as critical leaders that will drive the partnership forward in years to come. FP2020 spoke with Romaric as part of our ongoing series profiling young leaders taking action on family planning, and working to advance SRHR in their communities.
Romaric is National President of Youth Ambassadors in Benin and President of the cultural association Rayons des Initiatives Culturelles, Musicales et des Arts Oraux (RICMAO).
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a cultural entrepreneur and poet. I devote 85% of my day to thinking, reading and to acting for a healthy world without maternal and child mortality, early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
I am motivated by the active participation of youth and adolescents in promoting sexual and reproductive health. My passion to make a difference and to advocate for the rights of young people in my community have helped get Beninese and African youth to many national and international meetings on family planning, including the third International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in 2013, the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the 4th International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia (January 2016), and more.
I’m convinced that promoting modern contraceptives for all, especially for youth, will guarantee a nice and peaceful future for all.
Why are sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues important in OP countries?
It’s important to work on SRHR issues, especially family planning, because — apart from the health benefits — family planning is a great pillar in the socio-economic system of our countries. First, when faced with the rate of maternal and child deaths and the rate of early and unwanted pregnancies in the world, it’s absolutely absurd to stay quiet. Second, family planning can help each country to capture the demographic dividend. That’s why I got involved four years ago.
What actions have you and young people taken to promote family planning in your community?
As National President of Youth Ambassadors in Benin, I help organize activities of sensitization and advocacy, so that all youth and adolescents can be healthy and avoid early pregnancies and sexual and transmitted infections such as HIV.
As far as advocacy activities, I work with my colleagues to make sure my country respects the commitments it makes at national and international conferences. For instance, during ICFP in 2013, Benin made eight commitments, one of which was “make access to modern contraceptive methods free for young people in Benin.” In order to respect this commitment for the benefit of Beninese youth, we organized different advocacy meetings between national authorities and international organizations (such as UNFPA, WHO, the European Union, the American Embassy, the Dutch Embassy, the French Embassy, etc.) based in Benin.
What did you see and hear at the fifth annual OP meeting that makes you excited for the future?
Let’s say that during this meeting of Ouagadougou Partnership, the young people were champions. They were present at all activities. I was so proud. I want to congratulate all my colleagues at Youth Ambassadors for Family Planning from all the nine OP countries. Today, I hope that all of the recommendations from that meeting will be converted into concrete actions in each country, and that voices of youth will be heard around the world.
Romaric successfully applied to be a moderator and panelist at the 2016 International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia. Check out his video submission!