For the first time in Uganda, over 200 young people from all over the country gathered in Kampala for the ICPD25 Youth Satellite Event. The satellite event, which was organized by UYAHF, in collaboration with UNFPA, Uganda, National Population Council and partners aimed at providing a platform for the young people to discuss and generate ideas, concerns and recommendations around the ICPD issues and make their voices heard under the auspices of Accelerating progress for universal access to comprehensive sexual health, reproductive rights and gender equality for young people in Uganda.

During the ICPD satellite event, the morning session was dedicated to the youth discussing their views on ICPD and generating recommendations towards what needs to be added to the renewed national commitments due to be presented at the Nairobi summit. The session also involved presentations on what ICPD means to them and how decisions made in the November ICPD Conference in Nairobi will affect them.

The views and ideas gathered from the youth will feed into the National Symposium on ICPD25 in September and the November – Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ICPD) held in Cairo Egypt.

Mr. Patrick Mwesigye, UYAHF’s team leader in his welcoming remarks summarized ICPD25 as the birth of SRHR. He stated that “In 1994 during the ICPD conference in Cairo, Egypt, promises were made in regards to SRHR and that was the official acknowledgement that SRHR are actual human rights”. He also listed the objectives of the event which focused on getting the view of young people on SRHR issues in the country.

Youth in group discussion generating ideas for the position paper while on right is a youth panel discussion

Mr. Samuel Okulony, UYAHF’s advocacy and campaign officer, in his presentation took participants through the key concepts and the five pillars of ICPD and summarized the past, present and future prospects of the ICPD; which he implored the youth to share their views in order to determine the future of its success.

Prior to the ICPD, UYAHF carried out a national survey to collect young people’s views and opinions on the SRHR-challenges they face every day. Ms Lore Roels, intern at UYAHF, guided the young people through the results which gave the youth across the country an opportunity to raise their views.

The ICPD was also graced by different group discussions among the youth to collect views that were integrated with those already collected via the survey. Some of the key issues raised included the fact that adolescents are having sex and they are doing this starting from a very young age, therefore denying this and blindly promoting abstinence only shows a lack of realistic perspective. The participants proposed that young people should have access to contraceptives methods because they are simply sexually active and this is the only way to reduce Uganda’s teenage pregnancy rate.

The event was also graced by a youth panel discussion which consisted of various youth leaders including Miss Uganda and Youth champions from other organizations. They addressed key topics such as regulating accessibility of SRHR information to the youth, changing abortion laws, sex education and teenage pregnancy. Miss Rebecca Masaaba, a deaf girl, stated that “disabled people in Uganda are taken advantage of and not given fair treatment in all walks of life; ranging from health care, the work spheres, and even by their own families”. She called for non-discrimination and asked government to train health care providers on sign language.

Miss Uganda Oliver Nakakande, in her remarks, emphasized the need for consistent engagement of the youth, especially in making policies affecting them, since policy makers tend to underrate their challenges.

Mr. Humphrey Nabimanya, the youth leader and global champion of sexual reproductive health and rights, stressed that the demand for SRHR materials is very high but the supply remains low. This clearly shows how we, as stakeholders, still have a lot of work to do to get these services to the peoplefor whom they are meant.

During the afternoon session, room was created for an intergenerational dialogue. Amongst others, Ms.Segotso Mareledi (UNFPA deputy country representative) stressed the importance of young influences in the ICPD25 process and stated that “young people will be the front and the centre at the summit, sharing their hopes and perspectives and contributing their ideas, their leadership, their energy and creativity under the banner of My Body, My Life, My world!.’

Dr. Betty Kyadondo from NPC, congratulated the youth for the excellent initiative and encouraged them to collaborate as youth led agencies and at the same time collaborate with the other CSOs and government agencies to compliment everyone’s efforts towards the ICPD agenda.

The keynote address was given by the UNFPA deputy country representative Ms. Segotso who was happy to see so many youths interested in the policy making process on issues affecting them. She further went on to encourage them to hold their leaders accountable for their promises because these issues directly affect their lives.

A panel discussion was then moderated by Solomon Sserwanga. In the panel, Miss. Olgah Namukuza from SRHR Alliance remarked that in the current policy making system, the people making key decisions are the people who are least affected by the consequences of these decisions. In the Q&A session after the panel, a transgender participant raised the issue of the LGBTQI+ community not being included in these discussions, upon which Dr. Olaro Charles (Ministry of Health) replied that the Ministry will make efforts to try and see how to reach out to LGBTQI+ communities as well as including them through future partnerships.

As a highlight of the ICPD25 Youth Satellite Event, the Youth Position Paper, which highlighted young people’s ICPD25 voices from the national survey and the morning session, was officially handed over to government representatives and policy makers. It contains 7 key recommendations on how the youth of Uganda wants to see their voices represented at the Nairobi ICPD25 Summit in November.

They include; need for the Prevision of Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE); increase Adolescents’ and young people’s access to youth-friendly SRH services; need to create a supportive environment  for youth to Access to safe abortion services; address barriers that undermine implementation of laws against Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), Build support among community leaders and key influencers to challenge social norms; invest in child education; and promote use of Use of evidence and disaggregation of data

What became very clear through this ICPD25 Youth Satellite Event is that Uganda’s young population has very clear ideas on SRHR challenges, strong voices to express these ideas and an energetic will to make these voices be heard!