Getting People to Talk About Sex: Youth groups raise awareness about reproductive health and rights of young people

Youth group members in Allahabad perform a play about child marriage on International Youth Day; Photographer: Prashant Panjiar

The youth groups in Manipur and Allahabad, which were established by the Action Project, are comprised of vocal members who know they are breaking with tradition. In stark contrast to their conservative families, these confident youth speak openly about persuading the government to enact policies that address the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people like themselves.

This may sound like a tough desire to fulfill, but these groups, which work with Alliance India’s partners – the Social Awareness Service Organisation (SASO) and MAMTA, have made an impressive stride towards this goal in a remarkably short amount of time. Over the last year, activities initiated by youth groups in Allahabad and Manipur have caught the attention of government officials as well as of more than 8,500 other youth.

Examples of events initiated by these youth groups include National Youth Day celebrations in Manipur, which drew a crowd of approximately 500 young people. In Allahabad, an awareness-raising programme which was organised by 25 youth group peer leaders, was covered by All India Radio. Youth have also organised events to commemorate World AIDS Day, held rock concerts in Manipur to create awareness around public service messages about safe sex, and run mass awareness programmes to sensitize their communities on sexual reproductive health issues.

All their hard work has definitely paid off. In Manipur, SASO’s engagement with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) will result in the incorporation of youth-friendly services in the state’s annual programme plan along with a helpline for young people, and the creation and dissemination of youth friendly communication and education material.

In UP, MAMTA has worked to ensure the formal inclusion of youth peer leaders  in village and district level health and sanitation committees in 15 villages. The NGO is now working to ensure that youth actively participate in Etawah’s Health and Sanitation Committee.

The future is definitely bright for the members of these youth groups who continue to grow in number everyday.

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The Action Project is funded by the European Commission and endeavours to strengthen and empower civil society organisations and youth groups to advocate for more responsive policies addressing the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people. The project focuses on the most marginalised young people—MSM and transgender community members, drug users, sex workers and those living with HIV. The project is being implemented in partnership with MAMTA and SASO in India and by HASAB in Bangladesh.  By 2013, the Action project will have contributed to shaping SRHR policies and their implementation in India and Bangladesh by supporting the meaningful participation of young people in relevant processes and programmes.

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