NAIROBI – A group of young Latin American activists has called on leaders to fight for sexual and reproductive health services, the rights of people with disabilities and to debunk the controversies that surround abortion at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Kenya.
The activists have traveled from Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina and with their message have challenged the myth that young people are apathetic, uninformed and self-absorbed.
Working with Kenya and Denmark, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has organized the ICPD25 summit which runs until Thursday with representatives from more than 160 countries to discuss and share proposals to accelerate gender equality in the world.
“The three main challenges young people face today are the issue of gender equality, we have a historical responsibility to put an end to sexism; the issue of the environment, because it is one of the main concerns, and to improve the issue of work and salaries, the labor market is astoundingly precarious,” Guillermo Rafael Santiago Rodriguez, head of the Mexican Youth Institute, told EFE.
Nayeli Yoval, 36, also from the same Mexican organization added: “the fundamental issue of access and enjoyment of sexual rights and sexual and reproductive health services.”
“Teen pregnancy ends up fueling poverty cycles,” Yoval continued.
MINORITIES DEMAND TO BE HEARD
And although this problem is widespread, it is particularly difficult for minorities.
“Sexual and reproductive health (projects) are carried out in languages we do not use,” Laura Dihuignidili Huertas Thompson, a 24-year-old from the Guna Yala region in Panama told EFE.
“Indigenous people handle sexuality in a totally different way depending on our indigenous worldview,” she added.
Mariana Camacho, a 29-year-old Costa Rican woman who has a disability shares this view.
“The myth that we are asexual people continues to permeate, that we have no right to have sexual relations or partners.
“When discussing motherhood, many are not recognized as having that right, there is still a lot of overprotection of families on that issue because ‘how are you going to take care of a child having a disability?’
“There is a lot to work and a lot to do,” the activist said.
That is why the issue of disability must be on the agenda, Sofia Savoy a 20-year-old Argentine who lost her sight when she was born, continued.
“First by making people with disabilities visible and breaking the prejudice that physical disability is the only one that exists because there are many more barriers,” Savoy added.
THE CONTROVERSY OF ABORTION
The right to have access to safe abortions is one of the issues that most concerns these women and is a topic that is of special interest in Argentina where abortion is illegal.
“There is a pro-rights movement that does not oblige all women, which opens the possibility of choosing freely and with information if one wants to continue with the pregnancy or one wants to carry out an interruption of the pregnancy,” Brigida Lanzillotto, a 34-year-old who is a member of the Movement We are All in Action (META).
Lanzilloto added that there was a punitive logic concerning a woman’s body whereby everyone wants women to have only one option which is to no be able to abort.
A CALL FOR CHANGE
But beyond specific policies, young people are increasingly involved in the political and social problems of the region, which has a diverse population of some 160 million.
And the resounding message is a feeling of utter despair with their leaders and the lack of opportunities.
This has been reflected in the protests that have been driven by this generation and have rippled across Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
“Young people have been looking on with much disappointment how promises of changes have been devised but in the end, the economic model fails to generate them,” said Yoval.
“The important thing is to stop underestimating the ability of young people.”