MONROVIA — Several adolescents and youth-led groups in Liberia have launched a network to advocate for the priorities and needs of young people, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Liberian Youth Voices for Accelerating the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), launched on 05 December in Monrovia, seeks to harness the voices of young people to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and reduce sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
The initiative is part of the Young Voices for Change project by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with `support from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Liberia. The Project aims to strengthen the capacity of youth-led grassroots organizations to advocate for evidence-based, accountable, and equitable adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health & rights, including preventing SGBV and harmful practices through laws, policies, and programmes.
Speaking when he formally launched the Project, the German Ambassador to Liberia, Jakob Haselhuber, said, “Germany is proud to contribute to the fight to end violence against women and girls and also to the dialogue between men and women on ending gender-based violence and harmful practices in Liberia.”
“The fight to end violence against women and girls will not succeed if it is only led by women because we also need to take men on board,” Ambassador Haselhuber said.
Also speaking, Youth and Sports Minister D. Zeogar Wilson called on the network to be the voice of their generation and act with sincerity and accountability to their peers and the young people of Liberia.
“We know you seek to transform policies and programmatic responses to work with and for young people through youth-led action, advocacy, and accountability on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Participation is a fundamental right. Through active participation, young people are empowered to play a vital role in their development and communities, helping them learn critical life skills, develop knowledge of human rights and citizenship, and promote positive civic action and engagement,” Minister Wilson added.
In her welcome remarks, the UNFPA Liberia Country Representative, Bidisha Pillai, said the welfare of adolescents and young people is at the heart of the ICPD agenda.
“Liberia’s youthful population can propel the desired socio-economic transformation and secure a brighter future for Liberia; this is why the Liberian Youth Voices for Accelerating the ICPD is crucial to providing the platform for them to advocate for the future they need collectively,” she said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Liberia Resident Coordinator, Christine Umutoni, has urged the Liberian Youth Voices for Accelerating the International Conference on Population and Development membership to participate fully in the initiative.
“Leadership is about advocating for a cause. The Youth Voices for Change Project is a good vehicle to help raise the voices of the most marginalized segment of society. I want to invite you to continue participating in this initiative with all your energy for the good of your generation,” Ms. Umutoni said.
At the same time, the young people who attended the launch said they were optimistic that the platform would help amplify their voices and bring issues affecting their wellbeing to the core of all national policy decision-making processes. They pledged their unwavering commitment to be the voice of their peers nationwide.