GALZ Gender Officer Michelle “Chelles” Ruhonde attended the Southern African Regional Students and Youth Conference held in Zambia from the 11th to 12th of July 2019.
Here is her experience at the conference!
Meeting with young people from different countries and different cultures was an experience! Every person had their own experiences, from their country and/ or culture on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to share. I was surprised that there was still more to learn on the subject, especially, communication skills when engaging with legislators and parliamentarians. I also learnt how to develop solutions for identified issues that affect young people when it comes to SRH.
As a young person, I now know that we need to look at the problems that affect us and communicate with the right people and address issues and solve the problems.
My key takeaways during the conference were:
From the Health Demands for Young People session, Mantanyani Rommy from Livingstone College of Nursing, Zambia was of the notion that governments should not only focus on bringing condoms in the schools but should also consider the girl child who skips school because she is on her menses. The idea being that they would rather avoid premature pregnancies at the cost of the girl child’s education. Melusi Simelani from Eswathini alluded to the inclusivity of the LGBTIQ community both in dialogue and implementation, a topic which was being side-lined.
Mr Yeukai Chuma from the SADC Parliamentary Forum highlighted other opportunities available for young people in advocacy, including but not limited to the Standing Committees, Various SRHR policy guidance documents creation, laws and the regional credibility that comes with SADC, to mention a few. As the discussion on SADC SRHR Strategy took place, young people questioned the adequacy of the consultation process being done. They further questioned the representation of youths in the process of developing the strategy, inclusivity of various groups of young people including the LGBTIQ. Which I found refreshing as the topic was initially not being discussed.
Sexual harassment remained one of the unspoken violations affecting woman’s access to equity and safe environments. The decision was, the more young people speak, the more we get to understand the problems and related solutions.
We had an interchange of powerful speakers who addressed delegates. Important to note is that all the speakers reinforced the need for young people to take charge and be part of the solution to address the challenges they face.
Overall, the conference was a good space for GALZ and me because it is a platform to share experiences and issues that affect young LGBTI identifying persons in Zimbabwe with the region and engaging policymakers, linking policy to practice.