Youth: Today’s Family Planning Leaders

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).

Youth delegates participate in the “YouthLead: Increasing Access to Family Planning” auxiliary event. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

The International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) started out and ended with a bang and the spark that ignited it all was YOUTH. In a conference with about 3,000 people in attendance, 280 youth delegates arrived two days early for a Youth Pre-Conference to discuss family planning through their experiences and perspectives. As a young person myself, sitting in a room full of energy being told that this is a safe space, our space, and our time to be heard, was extremely empowering. I was in a room full of the future leaders of our world, and nothing—not even a volcano—could stop us from talking about family planning.

Over the two days, we heard from many different youth and adults on the role of young people in family planning. Not only were youth sharing their experiences through moderated panels, but also in participatory discussions where delegates could learn from each other. Having this opportunity to meet, greet, and speak with young advocates from around the world about the challenges and barriers that they face, along with their solutions, was truly inspiring.


Anggraini Sari Astuti, a young representative with the United Nations Population Fund in Indonesia, shared her perspective on necessary approaches to development. She believes that continuing education is not only the best approach to lifting people out of poverty, but also that it can help expand access to family planning services. Similarly, engaging married and unmarried people in family planning programs can have positive impacts on health education overall, helping everyone to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, she recognized that stigma was a powerful deterrent to youth family planning uptake, and she highlighted confidentiality as a key aspect of youth friendly services.

“It is not about what young people need but what young people can do! Now is the time for young people to have active roles to make a better future for themselves and others.”

– Anggraini Sari Astuti


New tools and techniques were shared widely to delegates to aid in their family planning work.

One such tool was shared when delegates were asked to participate in a family planning quiz-like exercise using an online gaming platform called Kahoot. Using cell phones and laptops, we all joined in the exercise together and learned a new tool we could use in our own work to engage people.

Over the last few years, it seems that everyone has recognized social media as a great tool to engage youth. At ICFP, Melody Serafino spoke about how social media can be a useful tool to amplify and promote activists’ personal voice and stories.  She explained different social media platforms and provided a great toolkit that delegates could use to pitch their stories and garner interest in what they have to say.

There was so much that happened during the youth pre-conference—these are just a few examples of the amazing work and people that spoke! Not only were youth sharing their stories with one another but they learned tangible knowledge and skills to bring back to their communities. Youth was a theme that was woven throughout the week long conference, with many sessions focused on youth and adolescent reproductive health.

Youth delegates close out ICFP in song on January 28. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

As ICFP closed on January 28, two original songs were unveiled by International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP) Executive Board member, William Otuck, and longtime IYAFP supporter and friend, Trevor Arnett. The first song was IYAFP’s two-year anniversary song to commemorate their formation at the 2013 ICFP in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The second was a song that William and the other IYAFP delegates had created the night before on the need for girls to have more access to family planning to create a better future for themselves.

The enthusiasm on display throughout the ICFP and youth pre-conference was an inspiring experience, yet after everything, my biggest takeaway was something I heard during a session earlier in the week, “the future of family planning is safe in the hands of the youth.” The passion and dedication that many youth delegates showed during this conference, and in the interventions that they have created in their communities, is astounding. All of this continues to remind me that during the pre-conference, I was not sitting in a room full of future leaders; I was sitting in a room full of leaders.

Young delegates at ICFP participate in a roundtable session. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

Caren Wakoli shares some insight with young delegates in session at ICFP. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

Participants contribute to the discussion at the “YouthLead: Increasing Access to Family Planning” auxiliary event. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

Young presenters at a session at ICFP. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

Panelist Caren Wakoli shares her perspective as a panelist during ICFP. (Photo: Sarah McKee)

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