25 years of age, a full-time graduate student, and finally travelling to New York. Not for its famous skyline, renowned museums or vibrant neighborhoods, but for the 58th CSW as a youth advocate. Not in the slightest I envisaged to actively promoting gender equality and SRHR by myself one day. But I am doing it right now. Why? Because we – young woman of the world – have to be at the center of the post-2015 agenda.
Over a year ago, a discussion I was having with my family during dinner was the start of a change in my careless attitude towards SRHR. The Pope Benedict’s resignation was reason for discussion. We reflected upon his statements on homosexuality, the use of condoms, and religion. Surprisingly, the view of one of my relatives, who implied that using condoms is a personal responsibility and thus poverty is a choice, awoke me from ignorance. How is it possible one can think like this? And why was I so shocked to hear this? It was a moment to rethink my bodily autonomy, sexuality and sexual experiences, and the opportunities I have as a young woman in the Netherlands. Too much we take our rights and endless opportunities for granted. Not long after this discussion, an opportunity to actively promote and support SRHR of young people came along my path.
I entered the SRHR community in the heat of the moment: two agendas come to an end, and negotiations for the succeeding agenda are ongoing. This is exciting, and sometimes frustrating as you have the feeling you are lagging behind. Finding out new series of negotiations are planned is so random! It is the cause, however, that the post2015 agenda belongs to young people that keeps me running.
Inspired by young women from all over the world, who fight stereotypes and traditional structures, and already started to build a world we want, I have created the confidence and drive to influence this agenda to our needs. The failures of the MDGs are known: structural causes of (gender) inequality are hardly tackled and women and girls still suffer the most. MDG 3 on gender disparities at primary and secondary education might be met; access to education for girls and young women remains highly unequal. Often the school environment is not girl friendly and lack decent sanitation facilities. Failing to connect with all peoples of the world, and led by short-term goals and ego, the Establishment cannot decide upon the future of young women again. I – and many other young women – have to take the responsibility to influence the post2015 agenda where we can.
In the full year I am advocating for gender equality and SRHR and working towards the CSW58, it strikes me that young women remain underrepresented in the process. Perhaps the clearest example is the minimal inclusion of young women and adolescent girls in the CSW 58 zero-draft. In the Netherlands I experience that the government is hard on its way to include the voice of young people in the post2015 process, but we cannot sit back as we are not there yet: I still encounter a lopsided representation of women in the Netherlands who advocate for gender-equality and women’s SRHR and human rights. The post2015 agenda is our future and the future young women-to-be, and therefore we need to tell what we want.
So, the question that remains is how can we be successful in influencing the post2015 agenda that meet the needs of young women? Let the world hear and see you, and never give up! Practice has learnt that being vocal is the best way to stand out. As a young person, you have to work harder in order to be taken seriously. One is not listening to us because we lack ‘experience’ and we do not have the means to fund a marketing campaign – but who else is in a better position to represent young women’s needs and tell their stories than young women themselves? Never forget you are not alone in this battle to be heard. There are many like-minded young women, and equally important young men throughout the world. Share your ideas and work together to make the post2015 framework a success story.
*Zoë Nussy is a MSc student in Public Policy from the Netherlands with Moluccan and German roots. Volunteers for the youth-led organization CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality to promote and support young people’s SRHR worldwide. Hopes to travel to the Moluccan Islands someday, to improve the position of girls.