The importance of achieving universal health cannot be over stated, and for the youth in Uganda who comprise over 76% of the population, this is a very urgent matter. Two years into the Agenda 2030, it’s everyone’s efforts to work toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it was on this background that Youth Equality Centre (YEC) with Right Here Platform members in collaboration with the National NGO Forum organized a reflection dialogue for the youth in the country on efforts and activities towards achieving SDG No.3 – universal health.
We aimed at sharing first-hand experiences of how the youth have been affected by limited access to health information and services, showcase youth-led solutions in addressing these barriers and promoting health equity, discuss and identify concrete avenues for the youth to play meaningful roles in the implementation and review of SDG No.3 and 5 and provide a networking space for the youth to develop intergenerational partnerships for the implementation of SDG No.3.
Discussion on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) centred on sexual rights, HIV/AIDS infections reduction among young people and the country strategies to achieving the same. There were suggestions to add “responsibilities” to sexual rights that while a youth may have rights to sexual pleasure, they should know their responsibilities regarding sexual activity. Other participants however said the youth have universal rights to sexual pleasure.
The youth were sensitized on the need to appreciate the importance of policy in development planning. The youth were informed of forums in parliament to promote the youth agenda. These include Forum on SDGs, children, youth, public health, among others. Engaging parliament can also be done directly with an MP, or making a petition.
At the dialogue, the importance of advancing gender equality in achieving SDGs was noted, with emphasis on the need for sex disaggregated data, massive legal, legislative and policy reforms, gender budgeting and building strategic partnerships and networks.
Innovations and initiatives focusing on SDG No.3 were showcased. These included projects to promote SDG awareness through debates in schools; youth budget advocacy under the Youth Budget Advocacy Alliance; Youth Go Green’s climate change initiatives; stories of change that uses creative arts like sports and music to reach young people; condom parties targeting sex workers and people who cannot easily access condoms, and Every Hour Matters campaign reaching rape survivors with post rape services among others.
In his address, Mr. Mondo Kyateka, Assistant Commissioner for Youth and Children, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, who was the keynote speaker at the dialogue, acknowledged the challenges in promoting SRH in the country. “Dealing with handles on SRH that are deeply entrenched in society is challenging,” he observed, “The youth must therefore be tactical in approach. Utilize the available technology, networking and organizing.” He however emphasized the importance of the youth to interact and learn so as to advance the youth agenda, observing that the dialogue was good initiative for the youth and youth actors to deliberate on SDG No.3.
On his part, Ali Kaviri, the YEC Team Leader, informed participants the that the outcomes of the dialogue will feed into the broader discussions with Civil Society Organisations working around SDGs.
It was noted there is need for sustained efforts on SHR awareness and advocacy to reach more young people, capacity building of youth and youth organisations, engaging leaders in positions of influence, building of partnerships and use of the media as partners in development.
Over 60 youth and youth actors attended the dialogue from various section of society working on various areas of SDGs. They were all united by one goal of achieving universal health.