12 August - International Youth Day 2015
Blog by Abbi Casey

Citizens’ Hearings have taken place across Africa and Asia in 2015 engaging tens of thousands of people – this International Youth Day we’re taking a closer look at how youth groups and representatives have taken part, raising their voices for women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health.

All too often the opportunities for youth to engage in decision making at local, national and global levels have been low or non-existent – but this is changing - the United Nations Secretary General is ensuring youth engagement is a critical focus of the much anticipated updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health to be launched this September. Citizens’ Hearings have been crucial in opening up space for young people to engage in the issues and decisions that affect their lives and their communities, and recommendations made have fed directly into the consultation process of the updated Global Strategy. Young people’s voices are being heard. 

Engagement of children and youth at Citizens’ Hearings took place in Tanzania, GhanaCambodia, IndonesiaKenyaSierra LeoneNigerUgandaSouth AfricaMauritania and Lesotho, as well as at the Global Citizens Dialogue at the World Health Assembly. 
Young people engaged with local and national leaders at Citizens’ Hearings on women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health helping to hold governments accountable to their promises – for the Sustainable Development Goals to succeed young people must be at the centre of decision making and delivery. 

At the (WHA) panel, I raised my voice. I made it clear that adolescents are not objects but should be subjects of development programmes! Support should be given to a people centred-approach by working with civil society to ensure that services are available to the most marginalized communities including adolescents like me
— ‘Ibil’ Bahaluddin Surya Youth Representative, Indonesia
I recommend for Government plans on MNCH services to give priority to our mothers who stay in villages since most of childbirth deaths happen in villages
— Rehema Haji, Student, Chief Mang'enya Secondary School, Korogwe Citizens' Hearing, Tanzania
Through participation in processes like this children learn about democracy, governance and their rights. It’s very important that we understand the issues around us and are given a chance to speak
— Khalidi Mohamedi Mngulu, Youth Ambassador at Hadeni District Citizens’ Hearing, Tanzania

Youth Focused Recommendations from the Hearings:

  • Access for children and youth: Improve access to health services for children and adolescents with a specific focus on child and youth-friendly services at all health facilities.
  • It is important that marginalised and minority sections of the society, including youth, are empowered and encouraged to contribute fully and fearlessly in development plans and schemes.

    -  Involving children and youth in the hearings was paramount to bringing their voices to the attention of all the other participants, including government representatives.
  • A pressing need for youth friendly services was highlighted at a number of hearings – young people must be able to access services without fear and have the right information available. 
  • Reflecting on the need to increase child and youth access to RMNCAH services, citizens noted the need to take a multi-sector focus through links to education.

    - Examples included the need to integrate information into school activities and curricula in order to improve student’s awareness and understanding of health issues. 

    - The importance of education was also highlighted at the hearing in Sierra Leone – from building new schools to training more teachers, and monitoring the school environment.

It is all for us, yet we are no where
— Santana Murmu, Citizen Reporter for the Citizens' Hearings, West Bengal, India
My advice to all government leaders is that they should invoice the community in the planning and construction of all health centres
— Student at the Korogwe Citizens’ Hearing in Tanzania is not time for talk, it is time for action.”
— Peter Kariuki, Governor of the Bungoma Chapter of the Junior Assembly at the Bungoma Citizens' Hearing, Kenya
The Government can include young people, we are not just objects or training participants
— Triani Augustinin Margareth Nainggolan, Youth Advocate, Indonesia
Because we don’t have accurate and right information, we can’t make right decisions
— Mercy Atizio, Youth Community Advocate, Citizens’ Hearing on NTV People’s Parliament, Uganda