Youth Lead at the International Conference on Family Planning

Meghan Jutras

Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist

The fourth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) on January 25-28, 2016, in Nusa Dua, Indonesia calls for "Global Commitments, Local Actions.” The conference is co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Population and Family Planning Board of Indonesia (BKKBN).

This year’s International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, brought record numbers of youth delegates to add their voices to the dialogues on family planning and reproductive health. This is a move in the right direction, as youth (under age 30) make up about half of the population worldwide.

Youth delegates to ICFP close the conference in song. (Photo: Sara McKee)

Youth delegates to ICFP close the conference in song. (Photo: Sara McKee)

The International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP) is representative of this positive transition. Born at the 2013 ICFP in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, IYAFP has grown to a group of over 40 youth country coordinators, and played a visible role at this year’s conference. IYAFP coordinated the two-day youth pre-conference, a youth delegate presented remarks at the ICFP opening plenary, IYAFP members participated in a variety of sessions throughout the conference, and the group closed the ICFP with a rousing theme song that had attendees up and dancing!

A panel session entitled “Youth Leadership: Champions, Change, Transition” also reiterated the focus on young leaders, with innovative, youth-centric programs sharing their most promising practices. Aurelio Camilo B. Naraval of the International Council on Management of Population Programmes (ICOMP) stated that in ICOMP’s programs, “Youth are partners, not ‘targets’ or ‘beneficiaries.’” ICOMP develops adolescent youth leaders in Indonesia who co-create programming and mobilize stakeholders to facilitate a supportive policy environment and improve access for young people to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and information.

Panelists during the "Youth Leadership: Champions, Change, Transition" event at ICFP. (Photo: Meghan Guida)

Panelists during the "Youth Leadership: Champions, Change, Transition" event at ICFP. (Photo: Meghan Guida)

Angela Tatua of Family Health Options Kenya presented a peer provider model, in which young people are trained to provide basic services to their peers, such as counselling, ensuring access to SRH information, and promoting adherence to contraceptive use.

Monique Clesca shared UNFPA Niger’s work providing out-of-school adolescent girls with SRH information and services to reduce child marriage and pregnancy, because “Niger will be a better country with the participation of these girls.”

Lastly, Nicholas Niwagaba of the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV and AIDS (UNYPA) shared their highly innovative beauty pageant for young people living with HIV (PLHIV). Promoting “beauty with zero discrimination,” UNYPA fights stigma and discrimination of PLHIV, which can limit people from accessing SRH services. Pageant winners are trained to become ambassadors of change for HIV and SRH issues. Pageant contestants also coordinated flash mobs to give out condoms in their communities.

“Youth are not only the future, they are the present” was a theme reiterated at sessions throughout the conference. As demonstrated by the programs highlighted at the ICFP and the young delegates themselves, youth are a diverse population, with unique SRH needs and distinct challenges. Engaging these young people as partners in designing, implementing, and evaluating the programs that aim to serve them promotes more positive and sustainable outcomes. If the youth leaders at the ICFP are any indication, the future—and the present—of family planning look great.