Being a young person is not always easy. Sometimes you will not be listened to. Sometimes you will be confused about your capabilities. And, sometimes your world will turn upside down as you struggle to find yourself in the mayhem called life.
But, while these negativities might seem like a downer, sometimes even a little help from our elders can spark hidden possibilities in the minds of the youth. I am very lucky to have found my spark from the platform that Plan International provided to me. And, there are many other young people like me.
Plan listens to youth voices and values their opinions. It encourages young people to be agents of change. It celebrates the potential of youth and it did so once again on this year’s International Youth Day, which was August 12th.
Plan helped us connect with young people all across the globe by arranging not one – but two – global hangouts. I joined the first hangout from Bangladesh along with participants from Uganda, the Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Germany. Each of the participants talked about what they do in their Youth Advisory Panel (YAP), and seeing and listening to the great impact they make in their communities was unbelievably inspiring.
Take Frank and Moses from Uganda as an example. The YAP of Uganda is working on issues around sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), ensuring that both girls and boys receive SRHR services. They have reached out to the district-level decision-makers, with whose help they are now carrying out several campaigns and teaching young boys and girls about their sexual and reproductive health.
If you are wondering why this is so unbelievably inspiring, you should listen to Marinel, a YAP member from the Philippines. According to her, most of the activists advocating about the importance of SRHR in her country are females. Seeing Frank and Moses made her believe that this should not always be the case, and young boys can actually go a long way to break the taboos related to sexual and reproductive health and thus work alongside girls on this issue.
Far away in Europe, Luca and her team from Germany are working on something entirely different. They are orchestrating a campaign called “My Choice, My Future,” which concentrates on the problem of early pregnancy and seeks a solution to the problem. They are also trying to help refugees from Syria and Afghanistan feel at home in Germany by arranging a photography exhibition where photos from those countries will be displayed.
Darakshan, from Pakistan, gave us a wonderful presentation on her work with Plan. She attended the United Nations’ General Assembly back in September last year, and is also a constant advocate for ensuring girls’ education. Fahza and her YAP from Indonesia, on the other hand, are working on disaster risk reduction and combating the impact of climate change.
Rukhsana, from Pakistan, also gave us a presentation on projects in Pakistan. Some of their important achievements included raising awareness about on gender equality, the Because I am a Girl campaign, and 10 days of activism.
Had there not been problems with the network, I would have been able to share some of the wonderful work conducted by the Bangladesh YAP. Just after International Youth Day on August 13th, we had an SRHR workshop where we gave our input on the SRHR policy due to be developed by Plan. Just like Frank and Moses from Uganda, we dream of a world where girls and boys will know about their health and break away from the taboos that surround their adolescence and mar them for life. That’s why we are helping Plan develop the SRHR policy.
I learned from the hangout that despite being from different countries across the globe, we all have similar goals. We cherish a spark to make a meaningful change in society. Meeting all these young people helped me look through their lens and discover that we are indeed making a change.
We’re doing it with our smiles, our dreams, and the baby steps we are taking towards those dreams.