For this edition of Yo!Fest, we bring you behind the scenes of the festival to take a look at the issues young people care about the most. Humankind has made extraordinary progress in the past couple of hundred years, yet in the field of sexual and reproductive rights improvements often don’t keep pace with our expectations. Less than two weeks ago thousands of people took to the streets across Poland against plans to further tighten abortion laws. Millions of women across Southern Europe drew attention to economic disparities between the sexes and gender-based violence. How can we create a world where gender equality is the norm, not the exception? How can women, men and young people have access to the sexual and reproductive health information and services they need?
We interviewed Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe (YSAFE), a leading network of young champions from Europe and Central Asia, campaigning for sexual and reproductive health. Their mission? To build a world in which sexuality is recognised both as a natural and precious aspect of life and as a fundamental right. A world in which choices are fully respected and where stigma and discrimination have no place.
How can young people fight for sexual and reproductive rights?
There are more young people in the world than ever before, creating unprecedented potential for social progress, yet they still encounter numerous barriers. The rights of young people, especially their sexual and reproductive rights, continue to be a playground for political movements and politicians to impose their own beliefs, disrespecting what is rightfully ours. It is now time for the world to live up to what we know is our inherent right. Gender-based violence, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and the backlash towards the LGBTQI+ community is an experience young people throughout Europe share. Yo!Fest creates a space for young activists from across Europe to share experiences, ideas and to solve the most pressing problems that arise from inequality and discrimination.
What do young people care about?
Due to the rise of everything digital, existing inequalities have never been more apparent than they are today. Young people are increasingly vulnerable and need solutions to counter and eradicate any form of inequality and discrimination based on religion, race, gender, sex and any other basis. Sexual Rights are Human Rights. Young people deserve absolute freedom and need to experience what is justly theirs in a world that does not differentiate among human beings.
The main concern for young people, as individuals, is their own life and the possibility for themselves to decide what to do, when to do it and why to do it. Collectively, young people are worried about their future. The possibility for us, as young people, to decide what our future will look like and what options we have to work towards that future as a group, is what drives us. Increasing freedoms and possibilities through digitalization and the rise of the Internet of things is pushing young people to call for greater interconnectivity and reliance on one-another. Solidarity, throughout the political spectrum, remains a core component of what we fight for.
What’s your message for decision-makers?
Young people as a collective are passionate and focused on finding solutions to existing inequalities. We do not only want decision-makers to take our opinions and ideas into account, we demand to be part of the decision-making process in order to ensure that we can contribute to a society that is equal and fair for all. Live up to the commitments you have made, discuss with us and listen!
Are you committed to gender equality, and to eliminating the widespread violation of health and human rights? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org