Sitting some thousands of feet above the ground heading to Ottawa, I am both fatigued and excited.  I am fatigued because I am on my third flight heading to Ottawa, totalling my journey to about 28 hours since I left home.  I cannot wait to take a shower but I’m excited, in no small way because I am going to Ottawa for the International Conference on Adolescent Health.


The Canadian Partnership for Women’s, Adolescents’ and Children’s Health (CanWACH) together with Every Woman Every Child (EWEC), Partnership for Maternal, New-born and Child Health (PMNCH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are hosting the International Adolescent Health Conference under the theme:


When I first read the theme, all I could think was: “Wow.”

I cannot remember the last time I read a theme so compelling and profound.  As outlined adequately by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the future is a 10-year-old, one who will be a young adult by the time that we reach the deadline of the SDGs.  The responsibility among us and all duty-bearers is that of creating a conducive environment for these adolescents to be able to “Survive, Thrive and Transform”, 3 targets that derive from the revised Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents Health.

I embark on this journey, however, with paradoxical emotions - so much sadness eased by renewed hope.  I am sad because there are countries where an adolescent girl has greater chances of being married during her adolescent years than completing school. It depresses me that many young people do not have access to life skills education that is comprehensive and lack access to life saving services and commodities.  It frustrates me that many of our leaders enjoy the privilege of flying outside their countries to access good health care, leaving the majority of the population with no choice but to rely upon the poor in-country health facilities that lack human resource and even infrastructural capacity, services, and commodities.  It breaks my heart that there are young women still dying from preventable causes.  It pains me that we continue to sign many human rights treaties that can only be implemented through goodwill, whilst the general public are not empowered or able to drive accountability for them.

GPPHP volunteers in Botswana running a project of #AgeOfConsent for accessing SRHR services.

It is in spaces like this conference that the PMNCH Adolescent & Youth Constituency hope to amplify the voices and plight of adolescents and young people at the highest level.  We aim to lobby for political will and commitment, prioritization and delivery for the rights, needs and financing of these particularly vulnerable groups in the continuum of care beyond rhetoric.  Our aim is to use every opportunity we have, be they speaking and moderating roles, social media engagement, floor interventions, or networking to advance adolescents and youth’s health issues.  Particularly on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), promoting youth led and citizen led accountability, multi-stakeholder commitment to closing the data deficits, advocacy for meaningful involvement of young people at all levels of decision making and engagement can carry serious impact.  We believe in a holistic life-skills approach towards the prosperity of adolescents.  Accordingly, our advocacy is not just on health-related priorities but on prioritizing delivery for all Sustainable Development Goals for every young person, everywhere.

We hope you will be able to catch up on this conversation through social media and livestreams. Key sessions to look out for where AYC members will be speaking:

  • Youth Leaders Panel: Gogontlejang Phaladi @GogontlejangP

  • HeForShe: Role of positive masculinities in addressing gender inequalities- Patrick Mswesigye @Patsewa

  • Launch of the Accelerated Actions for Health among Adolescents (AA-HA) Framework and AYC Advocacy toolkit: @GogontlejangP @MissTikhala @ThePartnership @WomenDeliver

  • Next Actions: Zanele Mabaso

Do follow the conversation and engage! The overarching goal of this global conference is to evaluate current barriers and explore new and innovative solutions to overcome these challenges by doing “business unusual”.  This crucial and timely dialogue will bring together the International Development community which consists of 300 Ministers, government officials, young leaders, multilateral agencies, civil society leaders, and academics.  I have high hopes that this will not be just a “talk shop” but a platform to engage on a concrete way forwards, and an opportunity for renewed momentum for actors.

As youth leaders running community-based organizations, this is not simply another trip, as we are accountable to our constituents and ensuring that the work we do at global level effects an impact at the country level as well.  My hope is also that CanWACH can deliberate on new ways development stakeholder can better and effectively work with young people, providing direct financial support through concrete investments in youth leadership and youth led organizations, motivate political will for involving young people in decision making at country level, enhancing accountability mechanisms for human rights treaties and engaging of how to help countries burdened with governance deficits impeding delivery of human rights.

After the CanWACH, my colleagues and I will head to further negotiations, high level advocacy and decision making at the PMNCH Board Meeting.  Look out for more updates post-CanWACH.  If you run a youth-led organization and are not yet part of the AYC, please go online to register for membership through the PMNCH website.

The conference’s official hashtag is #GlobalYouth2017, so be sure to engage with us all online.

Viva comrades!!



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