This week, the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be formally adopted, culminating in 3 years of intense work for numerous stakeholders. As a youth representative of civil society – the ASTRA Youth network of young SRHR advocates, I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to cooperate with a group of amazing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) activists, who have been tirelessly advocating for youth and women’s rights, trying to ensure that the new agenda is ambitious, progressive and human rights-focused.
Working on youth SRHR advocacy strategies, developing messages, exchanging ideas, sharing numerous letters and statements, and calling for the prioritization of youth SRHR in the Post-2015 agenda has left me with a bittersweet feeling. It has been inspiring, exciting, but also frustrating at times, particularly when we were dealing with the pushback of MS representatives, who either decided to remain silent on SRHR or strived to belittle the importance of SRHR in the development framework. Besides challenges faced, it was empowering to hear strong supportive voices for SRHR, gender equality and youth rights from some decision-makers. After many hours, 193 Members States ended the negotiations with the adoption of Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We have the words, now it’s time for action. What specifically, do we – the global community – need to do? Continuously push our governments to fulfill their commitments and not ever allow youth and adolescents to be ignored in the process. In my work context, the region of Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan countries, it will definitely be challenging. Anti-choice initiatives have been on the increase in the recent years across the region, influencing political decisions and shaping social attitudes. The ‘Gender ideology’ discourse has become widespread, resulting in dissemination of misinformation on the content of comprehensive sexuality education. We faced many law proposals aiming to ban abortion, limit access to modern contraception methods, and introduce abstinence-only sexuality education: all in all, to constrain freedom of young people and women to decide on their health and lives. SRHR are still treated as optional and this must stop. We shouldn’t be talking about if SRHR is important! The only question we should ask and seek solutions to is how to make SRHR a reality for all.
I ask this question myself, particularly now with the development framework in my hands. What I think was successful during the Post-2015 advocacy period was building partnerships beyond borders of any kind, keeping an intersectional approach, listening to youth activists’ perspectives and mobilizing each other instead of postponing advocacy in difficult moments. I hope and will do my best to ensure that these strategies and approaches will continue to strengthen civil society actions for SRHR within and across regions.
The Post-2015 process hasn’t finished, it’s just started. We have a tool – the development framework – in our hands. Let this document be our mobilization source to act for gender equality, fulfillment of youth and women’s rights in these critical times. Make a good use of the Agenda together for the sake of well-being, safety, health and lives of present and future generations.
Małgorzata is 27 years old and is a coordinator with ASTRA Youth. ASTRA Youth is a network of youth advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Central and Eastern Europe.