Youth Power Driving ESA
The Youth Power Driving ESA project believes that SRHR are for all people, of all genders, and that this vision can be achieved through youth-led systemic change. This project will amplify the voices of young leaders as dynamic agents of change and harness the collective power of youth civil society to gather evidence, engage with their communities and inﬂuence decision-makers to hold them accountable. Youth Power Driving ESA will deliver a genuine youth-led approach to advocacy and accountability in addressing the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Commitments focused on adolescent and youth SRHR (ASRHR). Building on existing government pledges and action already taking place at the grassroots level, Youth Power Driving ESA will convene a regional ASRHR network in East and Southern Africa to shift power directly into the hands of local youth civil societies.
Youth Power Driving ESA is being implemented by Restless Development Zimbabwe and will work with regional agencies in Uganda and Zambia and with youth-led organizations from Kenya and Malawi through a network to co-design and coordinate advocacy and accountability initiatives across the region. Through the adoption of innovative social audit scorecards, the network will build the capacity of youth civil societies to generate real-time data on ASRHR service delivery and promote data-driven decision making by improving engagement with duty bearers, including ministries of health, healthcare service providers, community members and parliamentary committees. This approach will bring about long-lasting, sustainable change by creating space for youth civil society to take up lead roles in advocating for enhanced ESA Commitments and respective national adolescent/youth-friendly SRHS standards and guidelines.
Why should Youth Power drive ESA?
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Due to the growing number of young people entering their reproductive years, there is rising demand for expanded adolescent and youth-friendly SRHR services. By 2030, Africa is expected to be home to 407 million women of reproductive age. Whilst sub-Saharan Africa has made progress in improving ASRHR outcomes over the last few decades, such as declining adolescent birth rates, fewer child marriages, and stalling HIV epidemics in most countries, these gains have only been incremental and not universal. In ESA, ASRHR continues to be a major health challenge – with the vast majority of new HIV infections among adolescent girls occurring in the region. This perpetuates inequalities for young people who are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases, early and unwanted pregnancies leading to child and maternal health issues, and long-term consequences for their education and livelihoods.
Many challenges hinder the attainment of ESA Commitments including lack of regional coordination and collaboration due to differences in priorities, political dynamics, and historical tensions. Overcoming these challenges and fostering effective regional partnerships requires strong collaboration and concerted efforts to let young people take the lead in identifying challenges, cultivating solutions and monitoring progress. By increasing the agency of young leaders to claim their rights and hold duty bearers to account on their commitments, young people will be able to advocate for a more inclusive and sustainable ASRHR.
Enhanced uptake of ASRHR services among adolescents and young people at a regional level through amplified voices of ASRHR networks advancing ESA commitments.
Youth Power Driving ESA will be convened by Restless Development Zimbabwe which will form a network that will seek to ride on already-established relationships with partners. For instance, Restless Development Uganda and Restless Development Zambia will support identifying youth networks through their respective youth collective to work with. Restless Development will engage community based organizations from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia to be part of a broader regional network that will amplify young peoples voices to advance ESA commitments.
The Youth Power Driving ESA project will be implemented in the Eastern and Southern Africa with more visibility in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The project will be coordinated from Zimbabwe by Restless Development.