From October 13-16th 2011 the Jan Sobiesk hotel in Warsaw, Poland became home to some of Europe’s most active and outspoken youth activists coming together to discuss the international state of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) from a youth perspective.
The EuroNGOs conference “Future Perspectives on Development Cooperation -Putting SRHR on the Right Track” kicked off four days of a progressive- and occasionally heated- meeting of 25 youth from every corner of the continent. Ten youth activists attended the EuroNGOs event which featured speakers from organisations as diverse as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Catholics for Choice. Members of Choice for Youth and Sexuality facilitated breakout sessions and the regular opportunities for attendant input made sure that the youth voice was heard by the policy makers.
The real fun, however, started on Friday afternoon when the main conference gave way to the YouAct hosted youth workshop. With the formality of the conference replaced by the vibrant and energetic discussions of the youth-only participants the room was quickly filled with voices of those eager to compare national experiences and learn from the wide knowledge base present.
Over the course of the following three days the youth participants engaged with a variety of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues- including the promotion of rights for sex workers; the importance of comprehensive sexuality education; the position of abortion laws internationally; and how to deal with opposition activists in day-to-day advocacy work. Sessions utilised a wide variety of methods from the traditional presentation via power point to the more energetic ‘values continuum’ and creative use of timelining and ‘organisational speed-dating’.
The entire event was a huge success, promoting network building between youth movements and across a variety of development sectors. Representing the Student Stop AIDS Campaign and Restless Development I was given the opportunity to promote our own projects whilst learning of new opportunities for collaboration and development. More than anything the conference and workshop highlighted the potential of youth to make real change and – more so than ever before- the genuine commitment within the sector to include youth actors meaningfully in the process of promoting and improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all.