From when I began my work at a tender age, I can validate the cliché that “change is a process, not an event”.

 

I have come to realize that the world’s challenges are largely exacerbated by the many of us who remain indifferent to injustice and have platforms where they can influence change, but choose not to be the voice of the voiceless.  This is what keeps me going against all odds in my pursuit to want to transform lives and create the change I want to see.

Every day the sun rises in Africa, we celebrate the birth of a girl child.  But also every day when the sun sets in Africa, a 10 year old girl is being robbed off her innocence and future as she is forced to consummating a “marriage” with a man old enough to be her grandfather.  In another part of the world, a woman dies from a preventable cause in the process of giving life, while on the other side, a young man is radicalized into extremism because of his frustration with governance deficits in his country.  All these are realities than can be changed if we do something.

When I was appointed to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) Board and as Chair of the Adolescent and Youth Constituency (AYC), one of my commitments was to ensure that nothing is done for young people without us.

I wanted to ensure that thorough advocacy happens at the highest level for prioritizing delivery of rights, needs, and financing for adolescents and youth.

I wanted to ensure that young people’s engagement is meaningful and sustainable, and that young people are engaged throughout the life-span of projects, as well as in accountability mechanisms.

I wanted to ensure that youth advocacy work is professionalized, and young people are seen and recognized as experts in their own right. 

And it is beginning to happen.

The work we do in our various spheres of influence - no matter how trivial it may seem - should never be taken for granted.  We must encourage a culture of not just providing capacity-building for young people and youth-led organizations, but also giving them concrete opportunities and investments.  For example, instead of only sending youth and adolescents to engage at conferences, civil society organizations and governments should also provide their young delegates with small grants to enable them to implement, engage, and build capacity further once they are on the ground, in-country.  In 2013, the Global Board for the PMNCH requested its Secretariat put together an adolescent health engagement strategy.  Fast-forward to 2015 where, after consistent advocacy at different PMNCH engagement platforms, the Board finally endorsed the recommendation to have an independent AYC as the 8th constituency of the Partnership.  In 2016, the Board granted the AYC 2 seats in the global Board, and a seat in the Executive Committee.

PMNCH is an alliance of more than 700 organizations in 77 countries from the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health communities, as well as health-influencing sectors.  The Partnership provides a platform for organizations to align objectives, strategies and resources, and agree on interventions to improve maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health. 

have been involved in the consultative process of putting together the adolescent engagement strategy since 2015 through my community based youth-led non-governmental organization.  Around the same time, the revised Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health was being finalized in alignment with the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) movement.  In 2016, I was chosen as the Chair of the AYC, where I have continued to serve in the PMNCH Board and Executive Committee.

This has been both an engaging and challenging position.  We have many challenges to confront as a constituency, and we look forward to many more gains in future.  When I embarked on my human rights advocacy and philanthropy work over a decade ago, it was right around the time when my country, Botswana, had the dubious distinction of having the highest prevalence of HIV globally.  My goal was to provide humanitarian assistance to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, especially orphans and vulnerable children.  This was to complement already existing efforts by our Government, which was overwhelmed by the scourge.  It is through this entry point that I established my organization which now works in areas of humanitarian and philanthropic work, civic education, and advocacy for human rights with special focus on issues affecting women and young people and governance.

I must say, it is never easy but it is ever-worthy.  I am happy right now that a good number of what we put forward is not just given an audience, but also implemented. Being part of the PMNCH governance structure, with the support of other AYC leadership and broader constituency members, has enabled me meaningfully represent the interests of young people. Because the structure of PMNCH brings together many actors working with adolescents and young people, we are able to also advice various partners on how best to meaningfully engage and work with young people in their organizations and agencies.  It not a perfect model, and largely still a work-in-progress, but as young people, we are happy to be given the space. Now it’s a matter of how we make the space work best for us.

Viva comrades!

@GogontlejangP 

 

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