Power to the People!



African Ministers of Health and Education Commit to End Child Marriage by 2020

Youth delegates at the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa show their support to the ESA Commitment

By Yemurai Nyoni originally posted by FHI360

Ministers of Health and Education from 21 countries in the East and Southern African region have committed to end child marriage as part of a broader commitment to ensure comprehensive sexuality education for young people in the region by 2015. The commitment was endorsed on the 7th of December 2013 during the on-going 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa and is titled the ‘Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African (ESA)


The commitment recognizes “the responsibility of the State to promote human development, including good quality education and good health, as well as to implement effective strategies to educate and protect all children, adolescents and young people, including those living with disabilities, from… all forms of discrimination and rights violations including child marriage;”. It also acknowledges that “Child marriage remains a serious obstacle to the realization of all rights for young people, notably adolescent girls and young women, and has direct and negative impact on their education, health and social status.

To ensure that concrete steps are taken by the countries to address this issue, one of the 9 goals of the commitment is to “eliminate child marriage” by 2020. The ministries of health and education have agreed to carry out a number of interventions to achieve this goal including through amending laws, keeping young people in school and providing rights based, gender sensitive comprehensive sexuality education.


What I love about this commitment is the effort it undertakes to not replace already existing outcome documents but to scale up delivery on prior commitments. It also has a strong accountability component in which the ministers have agreed to “establish an inter-ministerial, multi-sectoral mechanism… to strengthen planning, coordination and to monitor the implementation” of the commitment and related declarations.  The ministers also agreed to “review and report on this Commitment annually at SADC and EAC Summits involving the relevant ministers through national status reports


In as much as this is a high level ministerial commitment, this is also our document as young people because it’s targeted at us. As we have declared, ‘anything for us without us is against us’ I encourage you to share the commitment document as widely as you can and create local level plans to hold your ministries of health and education accountable for their commitment. I also urge you to visit to get resources and other links that can help you ensure that actions accompany the commitments of your leaders.

If this commitment is effectively resourced and acted on then it will definitely halt and potentially reverse the growth of child marriage in the region. According to projections by UNICEF, if present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 14.2 million girls each year[i] and in a region that has a very high prevalence of child marriage, the time to act is now. Find the document here

[i] UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013 – data from UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other national surveys, and refers to the most recent year available during the period 2002-2011. Source: United Nations


Young People Say No! to Stigma

Watch this moving musical video created by AfriCAID Zvandiri to declare zero tolerance to stigma against young people living with HIV. Join the movement and dance to zero stigma and discrimination!

My Plan to #endAIDS

The world is moving towards defining a new development agenda beyond the Millennium Development Goals that expire in 2015. I have an idea that can change the philosophy on how we can end AIDS in the next 15 years. My strategy is simple.. ‘Invigorating Young People’s Leadership’

Young people aged 15 to 24 years are our first window of opportunity, if we build their capacity and give them sufficient space then they will have the strength to push for change in the existing legal, cultural and religious environment. Young people have the potential to lobby government and challenge religious and cultural institutions to facilitate the creation of a safe environment for children and youth to develop. Through increased youth engagement we can end child marriage, ensure delivery of comprehensive sexuality education and create demand in young people for essential services like HIV Testing and Counselling.

Young people aged 15 to 24 are also current and future parents as they reach reproductive ages. As parents, they have the power to educate their children in a way that opens their mind to possibilities and counters existing negative social norms like stigma against people living with HIV. Young parents can raise a new stigma-free, proactive generation of children who will carry the mantle beyond the current crop of young leaders 15 years from now.

Young people are not a mere demographic constituency whose magnitude forces us to pay attention to their needs, youth are capable stakeholders who hold the key to the future of the HIV/AIDS response. Young men and women today will be key decision makers tomorrow, engaging them now secures them as an ally for work tomorrow. I for one am planning to be the Minister of Youth in the next decade and to be the Head of State by 2030… If I win, you’ll definitely want me on your side.

Notwithstanding the need for stakeholder endorsement of invigorating young people’s leadership, we must take responsibility and claim our space as young people. As Mbulawa Mugabe, the Regional Deputy Director for UNAIDS ESA said “if young people don’t act on the challenge of HIV/AIDS today, they will be forced to deal with it in future”. As young leaders we must take ownership of our own agenda, we must create space, claim existing space and make meaningful use of it. Let’s shape our future now, this is our generation and we can #endAIDS #post2015.

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