Conference focuses on holistic adolescent and youth development in Ethiopia
Building on the momentum of regional consultations held in May and June 2014 throughout all 11 regions of Ethiopia, Pathfinder International will host a national conference in September 2014 focused on a multisectoral response for adolescent and youth development. More than 250 national and international representatives are expected to attend.
The consultations and national level conference will play a key role in augmenting Ethiopia’s national efforts to address the needs of young people through holistic and multisectoral approaches.
The conference, titled “Integrated Multisectoral Response for Sustainable Youth Development,” will highlight the importance of investing in the health and development of young people in order to achieve a demographic dividend and cover a variety of issues facing young people, including sexual and reproductive health, education, economic development, and life skills. It is made possible thanks to generous funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
“We need to continue to harness the power of young people here in Ethiopia,” says Worknesh Kereta, Senior Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor for Pathfinder in Ethiopia. “If we invest in their education, health, and economic needs, this population of adolescents and youth – who make up a little over one third of Ethiopia’s total population – will become an instrumental asset in this country’s development.”
From the regional level to the national stage
The regional consultations were organized in collaboration with the Regional Bureaus of Women, Children and Youth Affairs and the Regional Bureaus of Youth and Sports. Representing the broad base of support for adolescent and youth health and development in Ethiopia, nearly 700 people from youth associations, government offices, non-governmental organizations, religious forums, microfinance institutions and other sectors of the community attended the regional consultations.
The regional and national conference build on the success of adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health-focused conferences held in the past, including the first youth conference, coordinated by in Pathfinder in 2000 in Bahir Dar and FHI360’s “National Youth Consultation on HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ethiopia.” The Pathfinder-supported Integrated Multisectoral Response for Sustainable Youth Development Conference expands on these past forums in recognition of youth’s multi-faceted socio-economic, health, and development needs.
The regional consultations used the “Future Search” methodology, where participants were asked to remember the past, asses the present, and visualize a future regarding youth development. Through this process, different issues were identified by the participants and recommendations were offered for each issue identified.
Harnessing the power of youth
According to the 2007 Ethiopian Population and Housing Census projection, nearly 65 percent of the country is under 25 years of age. In light of this, the Ethiopian government has worked to accommodate the different needs of young people identifying gender equality and youth empowerment as one of the main pillars in the country’s five-year Growth and Transformational Plan. In addition, Ethiopia instituted a National Youth Policy in 2004, a National Strategy and Standards around Adolescents and Youth Reproductive Health, and a Youth Development Package in 2006 which gives strategic guidance to different youth development programs.
These initiatives mark important progress; however, there is still much to do before the multiple and unique needs of young people are fulfilled.
Pathfinder has a long history working in Ethiopia improving both the demand for and quality of health services for adolescents and youth. Through the Integrated Family Health Project and Young People's Empowerment in Reproductive Health through Awareness and Service Expansion in Ethiopia projects, Pathfinder expands access to youth-friendly sites offering quality sexual and reproductive health counseling and services to young people.
In addition, Pathfinder has also worked to foster gender equality, increase girls’ access to education, delay marriage and first birth, as well as provide opportunities for economic empowerment.
“We at Pathfinder hope this conference reinvigorates the recognition of the power of youth, and also the need to look at youth development from a holistic view,” says Worknesh Kereta. “Ethiopia needs to ensure the availability and appropriateness of services and opportunities for youth in all areas that are important to them.”
Results from the regional events, including summary reports and a national youth status report, will be prepared and presented at the national conference.
Focus Area: Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health
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“Globally, this marginalized population of young women has unique needs and rights that need to be addressed and acknowledged,” said Callie Simon, a technical advisor for adolescent sexual and reproductive health with Pathfinder International. “Married adolescent girls have so little power and decision-making over their bodies, over their choices, [and] over their lives."
Dr. Tauseef Ahmed, Pakistan country director of Pathfinder International, a non-profit organisation working to improve adolescent and youth access to sexual and reproductive health services in more than 30 countries, says that early pregnancy is not uncommon among teenage brides. In fact, having a baby is a way of proving one’s fertility, and the values of adolescent pregnancy are “protected by women and girls themselves,” he told IPS.