Building a regional youth alliance in the MENA region to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and harm reduction

ACT!2015 is a global youth-led mobilization initiative that advocates for ending AIDS by 2030 and universal sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the post 2015 framework. Executed from September 2013 to September 2015, ACT 2015 has two core components:

A global ‘campaign’ for country-level social action to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and the HIV response in the Post-2015 development framework, andImplementation of a political advocacy strategy to influence at least 10 opinion leader countries via in-country and UN permanent mission lobbying and advocacyThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional workshop on youth mobilization and advocacy for Post 2015 was held in Cairo last week, as part of ACT!2015, organized by UNAIDS, in collaboration with the PACT, a coalition of 26 youth organizations, brought together young leaders from selected organizations working on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, harm reduction and HIV in the region.

The goal of the workshop was to advance a common agenda on SRHR and HIV by building the capacity of youth-led and youth-serving organizations to advocate for their priorities in the post 2015.
During the workshop, the participants gained skills in how to establish national youth alliances, develop advocacy roadmaps to influence the post 2015, and establish mechanisms to enable young people to hold their governments and regional bodies accountable in the implementation of the post 2015 framework.
Participants included representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.
The young people committed to influencing their country’s post 2015 positions at the national level and to engage in the global campaign to increase public pressure for governments to adopt comprehensive sexuality education and integrated youth friendly services in the post 2015.

During the workshop, the group felt the urgent and crucial need to build a regional youth alliance for a common vision to strengthen collaboration and advocate for young people’s SRHR and youth friendly AIDS response in the region.
“It is time to empower the youth voices. Nothing for us, without us.” - said Rewan Youssif, International Federation for Medical Students Association (IFMSA) and Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, (GYCA) Regional focal point, MENA.
Dr. Ali Feizzadeh, on behalf of the Regional Director, presented the closing remarks, where he emphasized the need for the youth organizations to collaborate strategically together moving forward and address their needs to advancing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, harm reduction and HIV in the region and in global processes. He mentioned that international frameworks and particularly post 2015 is important for young people to engage in their countries and coordinate advocacy efforts at the regional level.

Moving forward, the participants affirmed their commitment towards establishing a regional youth alliance that will advance Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, harm reduction and HIV in MENA. The regional youth alliance will serve as a platform to share experiences and best practices, strategize to strengthen representation of MENA youth at the global level and provide capacity-building for youth in the region.
“We hope to be models in our countries to implement activities, we will go back to our countries and share with other organizations and get them to join us on this ‘big ship”! said Yassine Souidi, a participant from Morocco.