The 2018 International Youth Day theme is ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’, dedicated to ensuing the dignity and safety of youth. It’s widely acknowledged that youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision–making processes and freely express themselves.
There are several types of safe spaces, such as civic spaces that enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces that afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces that help youth interact virtually across borders globally; and well-planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence, as well as those displaced or otherwise impacted by disasters and conflict.
For this year’s International Youth Day, the Interagency Task Team on Young Key Population (IATT YKP) and Thematic Working Group on Youth Peace & Security (TWG YPS) would like to share inspiring stories from select young people across Asia-Pacific on their struggles and commitments on working in the fields of sexual and reproductive health and rights, young key populations, comprehensive sexuality education, humanitarian response, and youth, peace and security – all in connection with safe spaces.
Here are links to stories of safe spaces from inspiring young activists and leaders:
Justin Francis Bionat is the project officer of Youth Voices Count, a youth initiative founded in 2010 and led by young men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. He is currently working towards his Master’s in Human Rights and Democratisation at Mahidol University, Thailand. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from West Visayas State University in the Philippines. He is a young advocate of LGBTQ+ rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights, working at the local, national and regional levels.
Muhammad Sarim Imran from Pakistan has been working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) since 2013, starting as a volunteer with a local organization across a range of issues. Sarim was one of the first to raise his voice for the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in SRHR projects in his region. He worked as a youth social coordinator, promoting the empowerment and rights of young people. Sarim is also an SRHR advocate for Rutgers Pakistan’s Youth National Advocacy Alliance. He has taken part in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process by contributing to a report on SRHR issues faced by young people in Pakistan.
Kefan Yang is an activist campaigning for the rights of ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups, especially religious and ethnic minority children, youth and women who are subject to drug use and living with HIV. Kefan himself is from the Dai (Tai Lüe) ethnic minority group from Xishuangbanna in southwestern China, bordering Laos and Myanmar. He has worked on ICT and Innovative Education for the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. Prior to this, he worked for UNESCAP on Strategic Communications and the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific on Gender Equality and Non-discrimination. Kefan holds a Master of Science degree in Media, Communication and Development from the London School of Economics (LSE). While studying in the UK, Kefan received an Honorable Leadership Award for the 2015 LSE Faith and Leadership Initiative, presented by HRH The Prince of Wales at Clarence House.
We would also like to share a feature story: Youth voices count and safe spaces do too
A global coalition of more than 80 youth organizations working on HIV (the PACT), and Youth Voices Count (YVC) launched a poll to get a sense of what young people know about sexual reproductive health.
More than half of the 270,000 young people aged 10-24 from 21 countries who responded to the U-Report poll (54% of boys and young men, and 58% of girls and young women) sought HIV and other services at a health centre or clinic in the previous three months. About 36% of young people aged 10-24 who did not seek services reported feeling uncomfortable visiting a health centre or clinic, and more than 28% of young people (both sexes) said they felt scared to seek services.
Read more here.