Today on 28th January 2015, a bunch of young people from different regions working for Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights participated in an very interesting and exciting workshop “Youth Think Tank” in Bangkok organized by Asia Safe Abortion Partnership.
To highlight on some facts in relationship to abortion and young people, two thirds of all unsafe abortions are sought by women under the age of 30, adolescent girls between 10 to 19 years old account for 70% of hospitalizations from unsafe abortion complications and young women between 15 to 24 years old account for 40% of all unsafe abortions worldwide and three million unsafe abortions occur every year among this age group. This is the reason why ASAP brought the most enthusiastic young people under one roof to share their experience and learn from each other.
“Youth Think Tank” is actually a junction for young people working for SRHR including safe abortion rights to talk, discuss and even share their innovative ideas and works. There are young people from Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, South Korea, Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Lebanon. These young people are working in areas with same motive to promote young people’s SRHR and some how their work directly or indirectly related to safe abortion right. As we all know that unsafe abortion is a major health and human rights concern for young women globally, the specific needs of young people have often been obscured or ignored.
The best part of the Youth Think Tank is Asia Safe Abortion Partnership always puts its Youth Champions forward to facilitate the sessions. For me, it was a retreat where I could meet my Youth Champions Buddies. So, here we are Shreejana, Yu Yang, Rola, Sarah, Jane, Pritam and Dakki to co-facilitate the Youth Think Tank sessions.
Let me have a great pleasure to introduce my Youth Champion Buddies.
1. Dakshitha Wickremarathne (Dakki):
Dakki represents so many youth organizations and networks of Sri Lanka like Y PEER & IPPF South Asia Regional Youth Network (SARYN). He is a youth social worker and has a very strong experience in Human Rights, Education, Sexual and Reproductive health including HIV & AIDS. He is a member of the United Nations Youth Advisory Panel in Sri Lanka and the national representative to the South Asian Regional Network of IPPF/ South Asia. He has developed a specialty in peer education while serving as an Asia Pacific regional master trainer on sexual and reproductive health and rights for Y-PEER International. He has been commended for his excellent skills as a High Level panel Speaker who has a thorough experience in grass-root level initiatives. Currently he serves in the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Well being and UNWOMEN Global Civil Society Advisory Group. he has a proven tract record in initiating advocacy efforts for marginalized young communities, especially young women and girls. Currently he is following a Post Graduate Diploma in Diplomacy.
2. Pritam harishchandra Potdar (Preet):
She is a youth champion from India representing SAMYAK. SHe is the Regional Coordinator (Project “Advocating to Separate Sex Selection issues from Woman’s Right to safe abortion services”). She had completed her post graduation on Social Work in 2012 and being working for SAMYAK. As a part of her work with SAMYAK, she has coordinated “Bapanchi Shala Abhiyan” (Fathers School Campaign) with 10 organizations in Maharashtra in coordination with community and intervention with adolescent girls & boys on SRHR in 7 slums and 10 villages. She got a small grant from ASAP to undertake a qualitative research with private medical practitioners in W. Maharashtra.
3. Rola Yasmine:
Rola is a Feminist, activist , nurse and researcher with an interst in contributing to the field of sexuality and gender in Lebanon. For 3 years Rola was project manager to the Youth Sexual and Reproductive health Project at the American University of Beirut, through which she conducted research and co-published peer reviewed papers on youth sexuality. Rola has a master of Science degree in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research from the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine (LSTHM) in the United Kingdom since 2009, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from AUB since 2007. Recently she has founded the A project, which is sex positive platform that launched a sexuality helpline and conducts training and workshop with migrant workers and refugees while promoting safe abortion practices.
4. Sarah Jane Biton (Jane):
Jane represents Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP). She is a registered nurse and freelance artist who advocated for women’s liberation and societal change. She was a community organizer of urban poor and peasant women and coordinated campaigns and mass mobilizations for almost 3 years. Her experience during these years pushed her to study a health related courses, which she did. Yet, she still continue her advocacy work and became the national Staff for Propaganda and Cultural Committee of Student Christian Movement of the Philippines. Then, she worked for FPOP as IEC officer, and after her involvement with ASAP in 2013, she became the PAMAC (Abortion) program staff, and now, as Consultant for communication and Media, while doing other video production related work. She is also a freelance actress and her involvement in performing arts inspired her to pursue video/film production. On the other hand, she is currently taking Master’s Degree in Development Communication at UP.
5. Sarha Ashaya Natalie Soysa:
Sarah Soysa is a passionate feminist in the SRHR field with a special focus on Gender. She has completed her Bachelors in Social Work in Sri Lanka and is currently reading for her Masters in Gender and Development Studies in the University of Melbourne as an Australia Awards Scholarship receipt. She has extensive experience in the field of SRHR, HIV & AIDS, Gender & Development working with National, regional and Faith based organization such as IPPF, FPA Sri Lanka, SARYN, Y PEER Sri Lanka. Young Women’s Network, ASAP, Chibby’s Friends, Positive Women’s Networks and the Grassrooted Trust to name some. She has also worked in a Certified Girl’s School as a professional social worker and has conducted a research on “Sexual Violence against Women in Public Transportation in Sri Lanka”. Sarha is currently working at the Youth research Center in the University of Melbourne, Australia as a Research Assistant in development sector, building capacities of youth an advocating for rights and political participation of young women and other marginalized groups upon completion pf her masters.
6. Yu Yang:
Yu Yang is an advocate, trainer and an activist passionate about education and SRHR issues among young people. Currently he is the core member of China Youth Network, the first ever youth-led organization advocating for adolescent SRHR in China. Also he is a national Committee Member of China Family Planning Association. he joined ASAP as a youth Champion in 2012, mobilizing young peer educators to strengthen safe abortion advocacy in the country.
So proud of my group, that we started together and now we are advocating safe abortion right in our own country and international forum representing young people’s voice to have right to access safe abortion services without any judgement and discrimination. On the same path, there were other young people from different region who are present in the workshop with their own expertise.
Here, I again meet Saba Ismail from Pakistan (happy). She is one of my favorite person form Pakistan. We relate each other as we are crazy about shopping. She is associated with Aware Girls and runs abortion hotline in Pakistan. This morning, during first session she was talking about access to contraceptive in Pakistan among young people. In Pakistan, mainly boys thinks that they might be called as impotent if they wear condom while having sex. Condoms are easily accessible everywhere in Pakistan but there are stigma associated to that.
Another impression was from this young girl Yik Kawan Pik, Megan came from Hongkong and she is working with this organization Teen’s Key- Young Women Development Network. It was her first international exposure and new to the environment of advocacy on safe abortion. Well she works with young female sex workers back in Hongkong and strongly agrees that she should advocate for their right to safe abortion.
Tanzila Khan, another young activist who inspired me today. She represents national Forum for Women with Disabilities, Pakistan. Her words are very encouraging. I remember her saying, “When we talk about access to health- SRHR and abortion, there are group of people especially young women who are disable and it is so on fair. There should be advocacy on safe abortion right of disable people and making them role model. The young women who are disable do not have people to talk about their SRHR issues and sexuality.” She has proved to be one whom these people could come and talk that is what she is proud of.
This Youth Think Tank proved “Young people are expert in their own area”. More updates on one day Youth Think Tank on another blog be soon up!!