With more than half of the world’s population under the age of 25, it is up to young people to be passionate and resilient in the face of global issues, such as gender equity, unemployment, and sexual and reproductive health rights.
In November 2018, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health hosted the International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda.
Sylvester Chiweza, Students with Dreams alumni and co-founder of Girls Rising in Potential (GRIP), attended the conference as a youth delegate after being awarded a scholarship through the youth video contest. As a delegate, Sylvester was charged with moderating a flash panel discussion on the roles of religious leaders in family planning.
The theme for the conference was “Investing for a Lifetime of Returns,” with a number of approaches to improving family planning included, from quality of care to men and family planning, from policy to family planning in humanitarian settings.
“I learned that youth have to [take] a strategic position and champion family planning, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and advocate for girl-child education,” Sylvester said about his participation in the conference. “When it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 4, Education, is key to achieving the other goals. Women who are educated are less likely to be a victim of gender-based violence or have their sexual and reproductive health rights violated.”
All of this connects back to GRIP, the project that Sylvester started under Students with Dreams. GRIP works with girls and teen mothers who have dropped out of school in order to support their return. Building the link between education and family planning, and engaging religious leaders in those efforts is the next step for GRIP. Sylvester said he picked up quite a few ideas for moving forward.
“As youths, we need to use our voice to create change. We need to take education for Africa as a norm in order to…reduce the fertility rate. Half of Malawian women aged 20-49 were married before age 18. Consequently, Malawian women have long periods of child bearing, which partly explains the high fertility rate and school dropouts.”
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