The Chief Director of the Ministry of Planning, Ms Marian Kpakpah, has urged the youth to take advantage of the opportunities offered them to impact the country’s development agenda.
She noted that young people were now taking on more valued roles and addressing issues that were relevant to them and which were influencing decisions regarding their development.
Ms Kpakpah was speaking at the Youth4Youth Forum organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of the third China-Africa Conference on Population and Development hosted by Ghana on the topic: A transgenerational “what’s changed,”
Recounting her participation in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, as a youth participant, Ms kpakpah observed that 25 years ago the youth could not easily express their concerns relating to population and development and to raise awareness of the role that they should play.
Young people, Ms Kpakpah said, were not recognised, so they had to project themselves through activism. “They had to lobby, they had to make themselves seen to be included in the development process.”
She said that youth participation in the ICPD in Cairo, Egypt in 1994 was not accorded any real value at the time.
“One hundred youth from all regions participated in the youth forum but that engagement was not purposeful,” Ms Kpakpah indicated.
The situation has changed, Ms Kpakpah said. “Young people are now able to participate fully in all processes, they are consulted about their ideas and opinions, they are researching on issues that affect them, they participate in the planning and implementation of programmes that affect them and their communities and they are involved and consulted in decision processes.”
In addition, there is more inclusiveness as the voices of young people with disabilities are also being heard due to the recognition being given to them.
Ms Kpakpah indicated that the current situation, which contrast that of 1994, is enabling the youth to influence real outcomes to their issues.
Youth with disabilities
A visually impaired youth advocate from the Okuapeman Senior High School, Miss Princess Mensah, pointed out that young people with disabilities still face challenges with the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
She indicated that despite the tremendous work done in the past decade by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and governments, there is still evidence of stigma and discrimination against PWDs.
Miss Mensah explained that because of the negative perception and attitudes from the society, young people with disabilities continue to battle for recognition and inclusion in the health sector.
“Society perceives PWDs who are pregnant as extra burden, which should not be so. We also have aspirations. We also have visions. The stigmatisation is enough,” she stressed.
Chinese youth and ICPD
In her presentation, Ms Chunyi Chen from the Peking Univesity, China, said the young people of China had benefited a lot due to the ICPD.
There is now gender equity in education as there are equal proportion of boys and girls in school.
Ms Chunyi added that another benefit from the ICPD was that Chinese youth now had the chance to attain higher education, which broadens their horizon and prepares them for the international market.
Road to Nairobi
Mr Jean-Phillip Lawson, a beneficiary of the Youth Leaders Fellowship Programme (YoLe) of the UNFPA, said the Youth4Youth Forum was one of the major youth engagement “ for the Road to the Nairobi summit of the ICPD” to be held in November this year.
He said young people had the power to change the world, particularly with the world now recording the highest population of young people.
“Clearly, we have a youth population we cannot ignore,” he said , and called on the youth to use their power to project issues that affect them, including child marriage and girls education.