GOJoven Honduras Immediate Past Interim Executive Director, GOJoven International Alumna, and “120 Under 40” Winner, Ivonne Elena Miranda Card, was actively involved in the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda on November 12-15, 2018. Themed around “Investing for a Lifetime of Returns,” the conference attracted thousands of global policymakers and researchers, young people and family planning advocates from 75+ countries, many of whom shared the latest findings from family planning research and innovations and celebrated progress towards expanding contraceptive services, information and supplies.
As a 2017 winner of the “120 Under 40” prize, Ivonne’s participation was sponsored by the prize’s host organization, the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. She joined dozens of other global family planning leaders under 40 who were selected in the 2015 and 2017 cohorts. The program hosted several pre-conference activities for the leaders, as well as a public booth in the conference exhibit hall where attendees could learn about the inspiring work of those involved and how to submit nominations for the upcoming cohort of 2019 “120 Under 40” leaders.
On the first day of the conference, Ivonne represented both GOJoven International and GOJoven Honduras as a speaker in an interactive workshop in the Implementing Best Practices (IBP) Consortium’s conference track. As an active IBP member, PHI co-sponsored this workshop about youth engagement and family planning successes in Latin America, and was organized by the Public Health Institute’s Rise Up – Levantemos Program and another IBP member organization, WINGS / ALAS de Guatemala. Titled “We tried that and it worked! Translating what works from one region to another,” this interactive session was the only Spanish/English session at ICFP, bringing together a diverse group of conference participants from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), as well as other regions that are looking to learn from what worked in LAC, to share their experiences working with indigenous groups, racial minorities and young populations along with achievements and lessons learned.
Using TED Talks and roundtable formats for the presentations, these family planning advocates and leaders co-facilitated dialogue about different programmatic interventions and how to amplify their successes in the region. Their most important takeaway: investing in local leaders is crucial to creating large-scale change.
As a lead speaker in the session, Ivonne shared her perspective as a young Garifuna leader, and how she has been shaped by her experiences as a GOJoven Fellow and the support she received from the program over the years. Among many of the lessons learned that she discussed in her presentation, Ivonne emphasized the need for training young people, “because a young person who knows their rights is more committed to their community or neighborhood in advocacy processes and to improving access to information.”
Ivonne also noted that civil society, non-profit organizations and community groups play a key role in family planning processes, especially in advocacy. Perhaps most importantly, she highlighted that systematic change (in family planning and other fields) requires a long-term commitment from all stakeholders, including civil society, governments and external donors. Short-term projects without follow up will not have critical impact. To end, she rallied youth to action – “Despite feeling stagnant or facing obstacles along the way to success, it is important to remember that you are the agents of change who will not repeat the story of your parents, simply because you have the power to change the future of your entire generation.”
Ivonne is right – youth engagement is key to scaling up success in family planning, in Latin America and around the world. All stakeholders must be involved in this effort, and our hope is that the rising generation of youth will continue to step up and take the lead in building these bridges to facilitate partnership and collaboration among civil society, government, and private and NGO entities. We look forward to continuing to support Ivonne and other youth leaders and advocates like her as they move into increasing leadership roles in their communities and countries, leading the call for positive change between now and the next ICFP in 2021!