Youth Pre-conference

In advance of the main Forum, a two-day youth pre-conference was held under the theme: “Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Africa”, to give youth from across the continent an opportunity to gather and reflect on insights, initiatives and experiences on SRH, especially as regards the 2017 AU theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth” and the Agenda 2030 goal of leaving no one behind.

The Youth Pre-conference was hosted YouthLab in partnership with Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN ESA), as a regional network in East and Southern Africa. We stand as a platform that aims to promote meaningful youth participation at the national, regional and global level in advocacy and policy dialogue on population/sustainable development, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

More than 160 young leaders representing various youth-led organizations had the opportunity to share best practices and devise a way forward to ensure that the theme: “Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Africa” is being well advanced to its realization into our community for better.

The Youth Pre-conference focused on the pillars of the Demographic Dividend Road Map and thus tapped into the following thematic areas such as Economic empowerment of youth in Africa: Beyond Jobs, Education and skills, Health: with a focus on SHR, Governance and democracy: youth participation.

The youth pre-conference afforded a unique opportunity to assemble youth from across the continent to discuss what works and what doesn’t and various other key issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights that directly affect them.

The following down are the issues that the young people of Africa raised:


The young people identified the following challenges:

  • Inadequate funding and investment in youth programming
  • That there was lack of enough partnerships between stakeholders to ensure that the aspirations of young people are met
  • Poor Governance and corruption akin to most African countries is affecting resources meant for SRHR targeted to the youth
  • Key Populations, young people with disabilities, those in the LGBT movement, those with HIV and those in rural areas are often being left out of the mainstream agenda
  • That despite being having good laws and policies there is no better implementation on SRHR
  • Teen pregnancies and early marriages remain an issue with urgency to be settled
  • Most policies are moralistic and culture based with no scientific backing and background on the community reality
  • Sex work, abortion and LGBT activities are still criminalized in most African countries
  • Comprehensive Sexuality Education is yet to be embraced
  • Lack of domestication of regional and international frameworks
  • Lack of youth desks and youth friendly health services
  • National Youth Councils are political
  • There is no meaningful youth participation in the design, implementation and accountability of projects
  • Unemployment
  • Religion and culture as an impediment hindering SRHR
  • Shame and lack of knowledge around menstrual hygiene to adolecsents and male engagement
  • That women and girls with a disability remain vulnerable and left out in all SRHR dialogues


  • Increase in funding and investments of youth related projects
  • There should be implementation and harmonization of laws and policies towards SRHR
  • Information should be accessible and available in languages and formats that the young people of Africa can understand
  • Decriminalize abortion, sex work and lqbt activities
  • Comprehensive sexuality education should be embraced and inclusive
  • Governments should deliberately domesticate regional and international frameworks
  • Governments should deliberately have youth desk and youth friendly services based on agreed UN standards
  • De politicize National Youth Councils and build their capacities to address actual needs of youth
  • A need for meaningful participation and stopping of tokenism


  • Youth Ministries and National Youth councils
  • Goodwill
  • The youth bulge and demographic dividend that can be tapped into


  • Youth from rural areas are disadvantaged
  • Lack of keen interest in the issues of mental health of young people
  • Parents and teachers remain a huge barrier to Comprehensive Sexuality Education of Young people and adolescents
  • There are few youth voices in governments and parliaments
  • Lack of updated data that will help in information sharing



  • Private should invest in issues around young people as part of their CSR
  • The AU being the body working across Africa should get in touch and aware of issue affecting young people
  • There is a need for a watchdog and accountability body on issues of Young People and SRHR
  • SRHR interventions should be sustainable and not seasonal
  • There is a need for continuous lobbying and advocacy
  • Youth Track tool
  • Review curricular that is not responsive to the needs of young people
  • Youth Councils should be apolitical
  • Mental health should be part of SRHR
  • Young people should be supported to attend exchange programs to learn best practices
  • Donor/Partners should stop dictating their agendas to young people
  • SRHR responsiveness efforts should tap into the diversity of young people
  • There is a need to professionalize youth work
  • Materials and learning tools should be responsive to the needs of young people with disabilities as well as those out of school without the privilege of speak English and other languages
  • Domestic funding from African governments

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