Sudanese Youth Advocate Mahasin Hashim Elmubarak Elsheikh takes the floor at the World Health Assembly. Photo Credit: Oliver O’Hanlon.

Sudan As Seen By A Young Person: What Youth Need

The Global Citizens’ Dialogue gives citizens a platform to voice their concerns, solutions, and criticisms. This blog series presents highlights from the 3rd Annual Global Citizens’ Dialogue, which was held during the 70th World Health Assembly and brought together adolescents and youth from Bolivia, Nepal, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and the Philippines with health ministers and other leaders.

My name is Mahasin, I’m 25 years old, and I’m from Sudan. I want to share with you my experience.

In Sudan, women and young people have their rights violated. Groups are marginalized and minority groups are discriminated, especially internally displaced and refugee women and young people. Because of conflict, these are realities for many people in my country.

Sexual and reproductive health is not included in the school curriculum and families often feel shame when talking to their children about sexual and reproductive health and how to protect themselves from abuse.

We demand that our right to health is protected and respected. We want to live free from violence. We demand information and education about our sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Maternal mortality is high and the situation is worse in rural areas where there is a lack of appropriate health services, particularly reproductive health services. Cultural obstacles can also prevent women from seeking health services. Educating husbands and other family members about reproductive health issues is particularly important. Reducing cultural, financial and physical obstacles to reproductive health care services is necessary for improving maternal health. Unsafe abortion is a major cause of maternal death and disability.

The most important area for me has been ensuring the involvement of youth leaders by officials to enable change.

The objectives of the citizens’ hearings were to bring young people together with the community, and for the government leaders to listen to – and act on – the views of young people.

Jemie Shreshta, Youth Advocate from WRA Nepal, listens attentively to Mahasin at the World Health Assembly.

At the citizens’ hearings, young people talked about lack of youth friendly services, lack of information and education, and sexual violence that they have experienced. I heard from many girls and children who were exposed to harassment and sexual violence, including rape.

We wanted to collect information and make recommendations on the reproductive health needs of young people, so that decision makers would listen and make changes to ensure that laws prohibiting female genital mutilation and early forced marriage are implemented to protect women, young people and children. We held focus groups with youth and discussed the misconception and issues towards sexual and reproductive adolescent health.

So what have we achieved?

Our voices were heard and that is important.

Also, after implementing citizen hearing programs, youth are hoping to creatively use local media and social media (drama, interactive theater, TV, radio, Facebook, WhatsApp messenger etc.) in sexual and reproductive health education.

But this is not enough.

We need to make sure that the right to health is a right for everyone.

Youth and adolescents should receive comprehensive sexual reproductive health education and information. We also need to see more mobile clinic services in rural areas, and we need to protect children from sexual abuse. We need more research into the problems that young people face with regards to sexual and reproductive health.

We demand that our right to health is protected and respected. We want to live free from violence. We demand information and education about our sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We need to make sure that the right to health is a right for everyone.

In 2014, a group of civil society organizations, including World Vision, Save the Children, White Ribbon Alliance and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, began working together to advance citizen engagement and citizen-led accountability for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at local, national and global levels. Since then, the Coalition has supported more than a thousand citizen hearings in more than 22 countries across the world, giving citizens the opportunity to be heard on matters about their own health, and share their recommendations for how health care can be improved in their community, district and country.

Donate to White Ribbon Alliance and help protect and promote women’s health around the world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. We harness the power of local women and men to achieve lasting change. Our approach is working. Subscribe to WRA Voices and follow WRA on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the work White Ribbon Alliance does around the world.

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WhiteRibbonAlliance

WhiteRibbonAlliance

Inspiring and convening advocates to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after pregnancy.

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