- Octaciano (Chano) Benegas GaleasOctaciano (Chano) was 22 years old when he became a GOJoven fellow. He was a very dedicated and creative young leader from the town of Tocoa on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. Chano’s educational background included Business Administration and Management and Social Development. He actively participa...
GOJoven Voices: Alessandro Roldán, Representing Guatemalan Youth in the Regional Conference on Population and Development
By Alessandro Roldán, GOJoven Guatemala Fellow, and Katherine Sham, GOJoven International Intern
Alessandro Roldán, one of our Fellows from GOJoven Guatemala, recently traveled to Lima, Peru, for the Third Session of the Regional Conference on Population Development (CPD) in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to attending the high-level CPD meeting, Alessandro also attended some pre-conference Forums with civil society members, as well as the pre-CPD youth camp sponsored by UNFPA, called ¡Juventudes Ya!. One of his biggest takeaways from this experience was that young people are united in their struggles to achieve recognition of their political, cultural, social and sexual identities, and that there is strength and power in the sheer number of youth voices in this fight. Though perhaps historically excluded, youth are indeed stakeholders in regional issues of population and development and need to be included as decision-makers now more than ever. Read on to learn more about his experience representing GOJoven Guatemala in Lima in his own words! If you want to read more about the CPD Meeting and the participation of other GOJoven Associations and GOJoven Fellows, see our overview blog here.
Alessandro Roldán’s Testimony:
“The Youth Political Leadership Camp: Youth Now! was a space for young leaders from twenty-eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to gather and meet. In this space, we participated in many learning processes that contributed to our leadership skills, and shared what work we were doing in our countries back home. There were four days of pure learning, of deconstructing adult-centered structures that deepen stereotyping of youth as merely biological entities and do not recognize that, in reality, we are political bodies with the capacity to defend our needs, our territories and our own bodies.
“The feminist dialogues were especially thought-provoking, during which the women participants shared their experiences in struggles that I do not see every day but clearly exist and affect them. It was very moving to hear about how they fight against these systems that do not acknowledge their political, cultural, social and sexual identities. Now, I believe it is important to continue creating these spaces, as much as we can. One of my biggest takeaways is recognizing that the struggles we face as youth unite us, and it is wrong to discount us as “only youth.” We need society to see us as decision-making entities in all political spaces. It was time for us to see that these systems bind us to a perpetual cycle of exclusion, and we should change that.
“After four days in the youth camp, I was able to attend the Regional Youth Forum (another pre-CPD event). In this space, all youth from Latin America and the Caribbean met to make our own pronouncement and read it at the Third Regional Conference on Population and Development. We worked in groups focusing on the different Priority Measures of the Montevideo Consensus, and I immediately joined the group addressing Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights, though there were many other topics like “Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, “Immigration”, etc. At my table, everyone mentioned actions that we would like our governments to take in order to improve the quality of life of children and young people in our countries and defend their sexual and reproductive rights. We also mentioned how our governments have clearly violated these fundamental rights and gave examples of public policies they’ve implemented that did not guarantee them. By day’s end, we had finalized a formal pronouncement that would be read during the Conference. It was very exciting to know that we all were advancing different agendas that intersect and overlap, like the roots of one tree with another.
“Finally, we arrived at the official Third Meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development of Latin America and the Caribbean, where government representatives from each country give national reports on their progress in implementing the Montevideo Consensus. Created in 2013, this Consensus is a tool for governments, in partnership with civil society, to continue to advance human rights. On the first day of the conference, I was able to hear the national reports, where each country’s official representative presented on the progress their country had made, as well as the challenges that yet remain. Some people were not satisfied with their national reports because, in reality, the country had not made much progress in implementing what was called for in the Consensus. Also, the formal pronouncement that we created in the Regional Youth Forum was read by a fellow young woman leader from Guatemala. As youth leaders, we felt empowered to be in front of our governments and address the needs of our countries, as we see and experience them.
“On August 8th, the second day of the official CPD Meeting, I was able to attend the Central American Forum, where conference attendees and UN leaders discussed the situation of each country in relation to sexual and reproductive rights. I think it is important that young leaders have access to these spaces to vocalize their reasons for fighting daily against the political systems that prevent their attainment of these rights. One fellow youth participant expressed her anger at the fact that Emergency Contraception is prohibited in Honduras, preventing access for girls, teenagers and young people when they really need it. These types of policies demonstrate the influence of religious and other traditional, non-rights based groups in our governments This happens not only in Guatemala, but also in countries all over the region. Despite these hard conversations, I felt safe in this space because we were united in a common struggle. It was clear that Central America’s political environment is difficult to navigate and that we will continue to face pushback until we take action based on our agendas and movements.
“This opportunity in Lima was invaluable to me. In meeting young people from different parts of the region, I realized that I am not alone in my struggles in Guatemala – other comrades in another country face the same challenges. I am inspired by how these young leaders have been agents of political and social change in their own country contexts and act as defenders of human rights for youth everywhere, and now I believe more in my own ability to do the same.”
GOJoven Fellows to Advocate for the Protection of Young Women’s Health and Rights at the United Nations
GOJoven Fellows Ingrid Galvez of GOJoven Guatemala, Wendy Aguilar of GOJoven Honduras and Nancy Leiva of GOBelize have been sponsored to travel to New York on April 2nd to participate in the International Women’s Health Coalition’s (IWHC) advocacy workshop, and the subsequent United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) sessions, set for April 7-11 at the UN Headquarters.
GOJoven is committed to ensuring that young women’s health and rights are central to discussions of population and development. To that end, in 2013 Ingrid, Wendy and Nancy, and a number of other fellows, participated in the development of the Montevideo Consensus in Uruguay which brought together countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to prioritize access to sexual and reproductive health services. Most recently, Ingrid and Wendy received IWHC grant funding to develop trainings and advocacy strategies to disseminate information on the Montevideo Consensus and monitor its implementation in Guatemala and Honduras.
The upcoming IWHC advocacy workshop will provide 25 individuals, mostly youth, from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa with background on CPD and why it’s important for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Participants will learn advocacy strategies and identify and agree upon a set of key SRHR priorities for the CPD. Following the training, participants will lobby country delegates to ensure that strong language protecting women’s health and rights is made central to the post-2015 development agenda and goals.
The 47th session of CPD will assess the status of implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development’s (ICPD) Program of Action (PofA), also known as the Cairo Consensus, a document developed and adopted in 1994 by 179 countries, that made reproductive health and rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality critical components of population and development programs. The 47th session of CPD is particularly important because it marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Cairo Consensus.
The GOJoven Youth Leadership training model promotes gender equality, family planning and HIV prevention by building the capacity of young leaders and organizations to create positive change in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health programs, policies and services in Mexico and Central America.
We’re thrilled to represent the voice of women and youth from Mexico and Central America at this important United Nations meeting. Best of luck to Ingrid, Wendy, Nancy and all who attend!