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Youth-led initiatives put the focus on bodily autonomy and sexual health



SD24 News Network –
Youth-led initiatives put the focus on bodily autonomy and sexual health
Sumita Thapar
campaign to address the problem of rising adolescent pregnancies. Philippines has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia. Philippines President has acknowledged that preventing teenage pregnancies is ‘a national priority’.

Awareness is a major challenge, and even though comprehensive sexuality education is part of the school curriculum young people do not take it seriously, says Lian. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected access to family planning services for young people. Lian conducted an online training for 70 young men and women to empower them to become advocates on the issue. These advocates use creative means like art and poetry to raise awareness on the issue of teenage pregnancy.
Youth-led initiatives put the focus on bodily autonomy and sexual health

Gaps in information are a pressing problem, youth changemakers say. Nepal’s Lirisha Tuladhar has designed a digital platform to ensure that young people have access to accurate information on sexual health and rights. “There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. So it becomes all the more important for young people to know where to go for accurate information,” Lirisha says. She runs a website, uses social media, makes available interview podcasts of experts on sexual and reproductive health and rights done in the local Nepalese language so that marginalized communities are able to get correct information. Issues around consent in sexual relationships, bodily autonomy, and comprehensive sexuality education are some of the themes discussed.

While it is crucial that young people are empowered to prevent unintended pregnancies, access to safe and legal abortion services is equally important. Last week, in India, the Supreme Court gave a ruling that all women, regardless of their marital status, are entitled to a safe and legal abortion. Also, recently in Thailand, the government has legalised abortion upto 20 weeks of pregnancy, extending it from the earlier 12 weeks. Clearly, there is a growing recognition of women’s rights to bodily autonomy, and also that ensuring safe and legal abortion is crucial to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity.
Nayanika Das, a youth changemaker from India, has named her project ‘Ab-normal’. ‘Ab’ means ‘now’ in Hindi. It is now time to normalize conversations around abortion, she says. “Why does abortion have to have so much shame and guilt around it? Why must there be this secrecy, this silence?” she asks. Her project envisions creating spaces where people who underwent abortion can talk about it. As a young woman who accessed abortion, she says the core idea is to challenge the stigma abortion seekers face. The mentoring from ARROW helped her identify a social change that matters to her personally. “I realized it is my right to have access to safe abortion and that the silence around it is not healthy,” she says.

When young people themselves identity the social problems they face and want to address them through innovative solutions, everyone stands to gain. For many of the youth changemakers, using digital platforms, building safe spaces in communities for dialogue, and challenging stereotypes seems to be the underlying common thread. Whilst these are nascent pilot projects and it is too early to determine their full impact, such innovative and passionate efforts that further SRHR advocacy merit attention and encouragement. Building a strong youth movement is crucial for sustainable development, especially in a region that hosts nearly two – thirds of the world’s youth.
Sumita Thapar – CNS (Citizen News Service)
(Sumita Thapar is CNS Special Correspondent, a noted journalist and development communication expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SumitaT
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