26 Jul 2017

Southern Africa Regional Students and Youth Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Words by Jane North

The second Southern Africa Regional Students and Youth Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SARSYC) conference took place at the University of Johannesburg, Soweto campus from the 13th – 16th of June 2017. The Aids Foundation of South Africa sent four staff to attend the conference as delegates, myself being one of them. I found the conference to be a great way to bring together passionate youth from around Southern Africa to engage in issues that affect their lives and develop strategic plans to advocate for changes within their respective networks.

Delegates were given the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of workshops and presentations which varied from research findings, to debates, to personal accounts of SRHR violations. Having a varied approach of engaging youth on topics of sexual and reproductive health and rights was an effective means to generate discussion and create a sense of solidarity that can be maintained beyond the life of the conference itself.

After learning from many presentations, it was great to see how much energy was brought when it was time to debate! Controversial topics were engaged with through constructive and educative conversation, making these sessions especially meaningful. Not only did the debate allow the opportunity for people to voice their opinions and consider both sides of the argument, but it also allowed youth to develop their public speaking skills and ability to formulate arguments on the spot: skills which are necessary for young advocates engaging with government and other decision-making bodies.

The conference concluded with a plan of action for all delegates. These included: developing and strengthening partnerships including public-private partnerships, establishing and utilizing one united voice to demand action in the field of SRHR, utilizing platforms to report on the work being done, encouraging and engaging other youth to engage in topics of SRHR, and advancing social justice goals to ensure adequate and appropriate services for all.

After seeing the positive outcomes that have come from this conference, I encourage all youth who are interested in engaging further with issues of sexual and reproductive health rights to join our communities of practice on the Sex Rights Africa Network. This is a great way to expand your network, build your knowledge, and share your best practices with other passionate activists in the region. Hope to see you there!