Youth advocates share challenges with health ministers at UNGA

Anoyara Khatun speaks about working in her community to end human trafficking and child marriage. Also pictured (left to right): Patrick Mwesigye, Yemurai Nyoni, and Michalina Drejza Photo credit: J. Cook Photography
Anoyara Khatun speaks about working in her community to end human trafficking and child marriage. Also pictured (left to right): Patrick Mwesigye, Yemurai Nyoni, and Michalina Drejza (Photo by J. Cook Photography)

Youth advocates and representatives from health ministries around the world  came together September 18 to share achievements, challenges, and innovative strategies to improve the health and well-being of women, newborns, children, and adolescents.

The panel of youth advocates offered their insights and experiences working with youth in their communities. Anyora Khatun, a youth champion from Save the Children India, strives to change attitudes about human trafficking and child marriage in her community. Michalina Drejza, a medical student from Poland, provides young people with non-judgemental, confidential sexual and reproductive health care and information. Tikhala Itaye, the President of the regional African network AfriYAN, mobilizes young people from rural communities in Malawi to call for policy change that will meet their needs. Patrick Mwesigye, Founder and President of the Youth Coalition on Adolescent SRHR and HIV in Uganda, works with the Ministry of Health to develop peer education programs to address adolescent health and wellbeing. Yemurai Nyoni, Founder of Dot Youth in Zimbabwe, works to address gaps in data on adolescent health through the new initiative, #YouthTrackChange.

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In response, health ministers and secretaries from India, Mozambique, Argentina, and Nigeria agreed that collaboration with youth is necessary.

Vandana Gurnani, Joint Secretary of Health and Family Welfare in India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, explained that, through her experience of working on HIV/AIDS, it’s not just about giving information, but about providing comprehensive care to adolescents and working with teachers and parents to break down obstacles that prevent adolescents from accessing care. Mozambique’s Minister of Health, H.E. Nazira Karimo Vali Abdula, recommended that other ministries, such as education and finance, work together on cross-sectoral objectives to achieve the most impact on adolescents’ lives. Argentina’s Undersecretary of Primary Healthcare in the Ministry of Health, H.E. Dora Vilar de Saráchaga, described her country’s experience of designing and implementing an adolescent health program, but conceded that more development is needed to make it truly comprehensive. Nigeria’s Minister of Health, H.E. Isaac Folorunso Adewole noted that his country has adolescent health policies and guidelines, and the government would like to consult young people when writing the next iteration of the national health plan.


Gogontlejang Phaladi–Co-Founder and Executive Director of the organization, Pillar of Hope Project in Botswana–moderated both panels of young leaders and government representatives.

This post was adapted from an article published on the website for the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health.

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