JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – They danced and sang, but most importantly they learned how they, as young people, can lead more healthy and empowered lives. International Youth Day was a day to remember in the heart of Johannesburg, when young people gathered to celebrate the launch of the ground-breaking Safeguard Young People website and music album on sexual and reproductive health, the latter produced by seven phenomenally talented artists from seven different countries in Southern Africa.
The hip-hop album We Will, a collaborative effort of UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) with young artists from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, raises adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) issues with young people, both in and out of school. It aims to increase awareness on ASRH to improve young people’s health and wellbeing, and to strengthen linkages between sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services among youth.
Critically, it is anticipated that the album will increase knowledge, skills and health-seeking behaviours, including greater uptake of youth-friendly health services among young people in the region.
Through the use of music, poetry, dance and graffiti, young people were given a platform to discuss safer sex and healthy relationships, and to share inspiring life stories. The youthful audience’s connection and identification with the messaging was evident in their engagement with the artists and members of UNFPA ESARO.
Not only was there support for SYP and its music project, but young people also committed to being change agents and to moving their communities towards sustainable development.
Including young people in policy processes
Dr. Asha Mohamud, Regional Policy Advisor for Adolescent and Youth SRH, said it is important that young people be part of the policy-making process and that they take ownership of their future.
Although – it was clear that the audience connected with and understood the messaging, the biggest win for the SYP team was understanding how young people wanted to be engaged with, what channels of communication they preferred and who the messengers are.
In closing, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, Regional Director for UNFPA ESARO, said that Africa is the youngest continent and investing in young people is essential for economic growth and development, the concept of harnessing the Demographic Dividend.
By Samantha Henkeman