Libya, UN discuss support of Libyan youth

By Xinhua

Officials of the Libyan office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday said it will boost plans to empower and support young women and men across Libya.

“We met on Monday with the Head of the Youth and Sports Authority Bashir Al-Qantari to agree on strategic plans for 2019 to empower and support young women and men across Libya,” UNFPA said in a statement.

UNFPA will soon launch a UN Youth Working Group in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the aim of creating a more effective youth programming, the statement said.

Due to years of armed conflict and political instability, Libyan authorities have been struggling to meet the needs of the young people, mainly by providing employment opportunities and proper education.

According to UNICEF, unemployment currently stands at 48 percent among youth in Libya.

Source Xinhua

Youth Voices Acting to End the Stigma of Homelessness and Menstruation in Africa

By Cleopatra Okumu

Imagine, on a day when you had your period, if you had to choose between buying food or pads. What would your priority be? This difficult decision is a reality for homeless women each and every month.

The routine tasks of managing personal hygiene and basic needs present them with a tough choice.

An organization based in Cape Town is tackling this dilemma by providing homeless and underprivileged girls and women with menstrual products. Since 2016, Girls with Wiings has been assisting 250 girls and women in 11 locations with sanitary products every month.

“Our most powerful tool when it comes to menstrual health management is action. It’s the power of getting involved, speaking up and taking action,” says Koinonia Baloyi, 28, founder of Girls With Wiings.

Using fitness as a platform to raise resources

True to her words, in 2017 she completed the London Marathon and raised R21,000 (about $1500) for her organization. She uses fitness and well-being as one of her platforms to mobilize funds to provide menstrual health products to girls and women.

“We are giving women a safer and more hygienic alternative to using cloth material and napkins, as well as restoring their dignity,” she says.

Ms. Baloyi initiated the Fitness for a Cause Campaign, which hosted a public outdoor fitness camp in in 2018. She was motivated to do so by commitments made at the first East and Southern African Regional Symposium on Menstrual Health Management, which was organized by UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office and the Department of Women in the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa, in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2018.

The #Fit4Wings event, which was conducted by local celebrity fitness instructors, saw Girls With Wings raise R50,000 (about $3650). The money purchased 1000 bags containing reusable sanitary pads, soap, a face cloth and underwear.

“This campaign has contributed significantly towards the advocacy of menstrual health management,” says Ms. Baloyi. “We have seen an increase in both awareness and participation in menstrual heath issues by large corporates, as well as men, through active partnerships, sponsorships and participation in these events.”

Inspiring continuous action

With their aspirational name, Girls With Wiings is about inspiring continuous action and not allowing homeless and underprivileged girls, women and other people who menstruate to be alienated from society because of their inability to manage their menstrual health.

“Menstrual health management is something we need to keep talking about until it is a normal part of our everyday conversation, until it is something we don’t shy away from,” she says.

Ms. Baloyi is one of 400 practitioners who have joined the African Coalition for Menstrual Health, the aim of which is to strengthen the voices of its members. She believes her involvement will amplify the voices of practitioners and activists who have come together to address the menstrual health challenges of those who are so often left behind – including girls, women and other people who menstruate, the homeless, and those in prison or fleeing a humanitarian crisis.

Source UNFPA

Burundi: Sexual Health Education Helps Youth Protect Themselves, Their Futures

“During my youth, I had to abort four times,” said Cecile Nshimirimana*, a student in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. The procedures were illegal – in Burundi, abortion is permitted only to save a woman’s life.

“I was afraid for my life when [on one occasion] it was dark and the doctor had only two candles to light [the room],” she recalled.

She had not learned how to protect herself from an unintended pregnancy – something that is considered taboo in her conservative community.

Girls who find themselves unmarried and pregnant are often compelled to drop out of school or marry early, even if underage. “For a girl who becomes pregnant and has ambitions to study and move forward in life, the only option left is an illegal abortion, with all the risks that entails,” Ms. Nshimirimana said.

Today, she is a member of the Kamenge Youth Centre, a UNFPA-sponsored centre where young people can learn about their sexual and reproductive health and receive referrals to adolescent-friendly health services.

These services are essential, Ms. Nshimirimana says. “Some days, I think of how I could have avoided getting pregnant again and again, if only I had the information and the means necessary to protect myself.”

Shame and taboos

The majority of adolescents in Burundi do not have sufficient knowledge to make responsible choices about their sexuality.

Ms. Nshimirimana faced this challenge as an adolescent. “I saw embarrassment on my mother’s face when I asked her questions regarding sexuality and relationships with boys,” she said.

“How can we adopt responsible behaviour regarding sexuality if no one, not even our parents, can discuss it openly with us?”

In the absence of reliable information, rumours, myths and misconceptions run rampant. For instance, many people believe, incorrectly, that modern contraceptives cause infertility and cancer.

Young people also face barriers accessing sexual and reproductive health services. They may face shame or stigma while seeking care.

“It’s still challenging today for a girl to go to the clinic and get her contraceptive pills,” Ms. Nshimirimana said.

All this is reflected in the country’s adolescent fertility rate. According to a 2016-2017 demographic survey, 8 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 were pregnant or already had a child.

Seeing progress
But there is progress.

As part of the National Programme for Reproductive Health, information about sexual and reproductive health is being disseminated through youth peer networks, many of them affiliated with school, community, religious and youth associations.

Edouard Hatungimana, 56, is a facilitator with one such organization. He received training from UNFPA on how to speak to openly about health and sexuality.

He remembers how challenging these conversations were when he was raising his own six children. “We did not understand the importance of discussing sexual and reproductive health, especially why our children should learn [about this], because we assumed it would drive them to perdition,” he said.

Today, he says, “we are supporting communication activities that aim for free dialogue between religious leaders and adolescents and youth.”

UNFPA is also supporting 18 youth-friendly health centres throughout Burundi, where staff have been trained to offer sensitive, confidential, nonjudgmental information and services. And UNFPA is working with the Government of Burundi to roll out a comprehensive sexuality education programme. The programme, launched three years ago, reaches youth both in schools and the broader community.

Mr. Hatungimana says these efforts can save lives by empowering young people to protect themselves.

“In regard to unwanted pregnancies and the risk of complications due to illegal abortions, which our children are facing, it is clear that we have to change our behaviour,” he said.


Uganda: UNFPA to fund youth groups with developmental startups

UNFPA has granted Sh144m funding to youths aged between 18 and 30 for startup business on innovative business solutions.

The Up Accelerate programme is set to benefit at least 40 youths in groups of eight with Sh18 million each from Adjumani, Arua, Yumbe, Moyo, Kitgum, Agago, Amuru and Lamwo districts, Uganda.

The beneficiaries are expected to come up with business solutions on women, children and youths in Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights and Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Alain Sibenaler, from UNFPA Uganda says that the initiative is meant to help young people in coming up with creative business ideas that will benefit the community.

“This edition of Up Accelerate is tailor made to target young people to develop local based solutions to address challenges of their local communities. It is an opportunity to harness the untapped potential of young people in more rural areas and refugee communities and support them live their dream,” he says.

Richard Zulu, team leader at Outbox said that the initiative existed to nurture talent that was in the country.

“The high level of interest and participation from Northern Uganda and West Nile is evidence to the talent that exists nationally, and the desire of young people to be part of the solutions,” he held.

The initiative which was unveiled in November 2016 has so far supported 25 youths with Sh259 million for businesses reported to have benefitted 70,000 people, mainly focuses on West Nile and Northern Uganda.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is in association with Outbox, a local business and innovation incubator funded by the Government of Denmark.

Source – Standard Digital