African youth demand own goals in 2015 development framework

Young Africans are leading the call for stand-alone goals for young people in the post 2015 development agenda, which will be discussed at the UN General Assembly this month.

Young Africans are leading the call for stand-alone goals for young people in the post 2015 development agenda, which will be discussed at the UN General Assembly this month.

“I believe it’s time for us African youths to hold our governments accountable to engage youth in ending AIDS, TB, malaria and other communicable diseases, given the fact that the pandemic burden is more felt in Africa,” says Musah Lumumba, a Ugandan youth HIV activist.

Lumumba boldly challenges governments to incorporate youth in policy and decision making particularly in relation to sexual and reproductive health and HIV issues. He believes that to bring the dawn of an HIV-free generation, the youth’s influence must be fundamental both at community and national levels.

Young people and sexual activity

“The youth constitute around 80 per cent of the African continent population and are most vulnerable to HIV infections,” Lumumba observes. “If they’re left out of the development agenda, then there is a likelihood of an increase in HIV instead of a decrease.”

Kenya rates fourth highest in the number of people living with HIV worldwide according to the national HIV and Aids estimates report released last month by cabinet secretary for health James Macharia. And UNICEF reports around 1.1 million children have lost one or more parents to AIDS in Kenya. While the Kenyan government addresses the plight of children, it does little for adolescents during this particular risky time of their lives when they are likely to be exposed to sexual activity – whether through their own experimentation, being forced into early marriage or even having to earn a living through selling sex.

Bella Mbua, 23, who was orphaned when she was just seven, explains how her aunt kicked her out when she turned 15 claiming she was already “an adult who can fend for herself”.

“I had no alternative but to turn to sex work,” Mbua narrates, recalling that when she tried employment as a nanny, the man of the house sexually abused her several times before inciting his wife to fire her.

Mbua is now a sex worker living with HIV and a mother of one. “I would like to see young people being empowered to be self reliant,” she says. “In a couple of years I will be too old and unattractive for sex work, what will I do then to keep going without any skill?”

Sustainable development goals for youth

In a recent high-level dialogue in Nairobi, Kenya youth from over 10 African countries said they need independent, youth-focused targets incorporated into the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) which are currently being negotiated by UN member states and will be established in September 2015.

The Nairobi youth delegates were particularly targeting the SDG focus areas under health and population dynamics, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, harm reduction services for people who use drugs and ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. They argue that young people are disproportionately subjected to discrimination and stigma based on gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity in sexual reproductive health facilities. They want this addressed in the SDGs by ensuring youth are consulted in every decision that is made concerning them.

“Questions such as ‘how did you get yourself pregnant?’ are common when young women attend anti-natal clinics for the first time,” notes Jacqueline Alesi, a 28-year-old HIV activist. The questioning can often be judgemental and as a result young people shy away from seeking services. Alesi says HIV should be integrated with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and made more youth friendly to avoid such scenarios.

Young people have key role to play

Leone Messeh, member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, believes young people have huge potential and advises them to view themselves as resources. “While governments and stakeholders are doing everything possible to incorporate youth in decision-making, the youth must embrace responsible behaviors especially to end HIV by 2030,” he said during the Nairobi youth dialogue.

Worldwide young people (15-24) account for 40 per cent of new HIV infections. But young HIV activists have high hopes that future generations will see the benefit of their petition to get friendly SRH services. Their goals include easy access for young people to modern contraceptive and HIV prevention services, as well as safe, stigma-free abortion and post abortion care in health facilities. They propose that young people should be employed to serve in SRH facilities since they understand the youth challenges better.

Judy Aketch, an executive committee member at African Youth and Adolescents on Population and Development advises young people to make use of human rights platforms when their rights have been violated. “There are organisations such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the Human Rights Commission who will be glad to assist the youth to understand their rights,” she said.

Globally rates of new HIV infections are decreasing, but in certain population groups – including young people – the rates are still rising. If young people had been better consulted for the millennium development goals it could have been a different story. As international leaders gather in New York this month, and continue to negotiate over the coming year, let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake twice.

Read about HIV and the post 2015 development agenda


  • comment-avatar
    chris 3 years

    The government should do somthing about this Hiv, please people are diey day and night