Adolescents, make up 1.2 billion of the world’s population. For such a large population, they are often overlooked. But this is starting to change.
Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) there has been a growing emphasis on adolescent health and the importance of its role in achieving the SDGs.
That was the topic at this year’s Global Adolescent Health Conference: Unleashing the Power of a Generation, hosted by the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH), along with other health organizations.
The international conference brought together experts from the international development community, youth advocates and political leaders, to discuss the existing barriers and solutions surrounding the current state of adolescent health in Canada and around the world.
Six of Plan International Canada’s Youth had the opportunity to attend the conference and have their voices heard on the international stage.
Hear from 2 of the Youth attendees, Nicole and Amy, as they share their experiences and take-aways from the conference.
This May, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Adolescent Health Conference in Ottawa as a youth advocate for Plan International Canada. The conference was an incredible experience to learn how the future of global health initiatives will work to prioritize adolescents, a powerful yet neglected demographic.
The conference focused on four pillars; mental health, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and data. All four pillars worked into the theme of the conference, unleashing the power of a generation. The conference theme demonstrated the importance of investing in today’s youth and all they have to offer.
Youth are particularly powerful because when you invest in their health you get a triple return on investment. Investing in adolescent health creates a generation of healthy youth who will then grow up to be a generation of healthy adults and will raise healthy children. Not only is prioritizing adolescent health important, but including youth in the conversations around improving global health is equally as important.
The various conference panels discussed the crisis of youth suicide in Indigenous communities, the global lack of comprehensive sexual educating, was to improve youth nutrition, and the need for more data to launch initiatives to improve the health of adolescents everywhere. With speakers ranging from Deputy Secretary Amina Mohammed to Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, there was never a dull moment!
The conference left me with a feeling of excitement, eager to see how organizations will partner with young people to revolutionize global adolescent health.
I recently had the opportunity to represent Plan International Canada to sit on the Youth Council spearheaded by the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health for the Global Adolescent Health Conference in Ottawa this past May.
Ten bright young individuals from around the world were brought together to create this council and ensure that youth voice, participation, and engagement were a vital part of this conference. We were nominated by the following CanWaCH partners to make sure youth voices were central in every part of this conference.
The Conference Youth Council led a social media strategy that engaged conference attendees and the public. We conducted Facebook Live interviews with amazing leaders and learned a lot about the great work they do every day for adolescents and young people.
In terms of commitments, the Conference Youth Council proposed that we, as youth, make commitments to each other. To accomplish this, we created a banner in the foyer with the sentence reading; “What will you commit to?” and asked youth delegates, professionals and world leaders to write down how they will commit to promoting adolescent health when they return home.
Although we all come from different continents, we cannot represent every adolescent voice. But we do depict an accurate representation of the great potential if you invest in youth.
During the Global Adolescent Health Conference, we focused greatly on youth participation and engagement, as does Plan International Canada in their work. Participation means not only to sit at the table but to contribute content that you believe in. And as global citizens, participation must go beyond borders to break down barriers.
In the powerful words of the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, “we need not to see borders, but to see the world as one”.
The power of youth
Although the conference is over, the momentum behind the voices of youth in Canada and around the world has only just begun. Youth are continuously proving that they are powerful agents of change that must be heard on the global stage.
When you invest in youth, you invest in the progress of future generations.
Want to be an agent of change?
Want to take a leadership role in your community? Apply to join our Speakers Bureau and create positive change through the Because I am a Girl movement. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips on how you can get involved!