International Youth Day: A celebration, but also a reminder of the way ahead

Op-ed by Carles Pericas, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health issues incl. HIV/AIDS, originally published on the website of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Click here for the original article.


We’ve all heard how young people—one of the biggest demographics on earth—are undoubtedly an important agent of positive change in the world. Despite the challenges we face in accessing equal opportunities, we bring to the table refreshing and innovative ideas that reflect the needs and concerns of our generation; playing a vital role in the development of our communities by doing so.

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) is committed to working to ensure meaningful youth participation. We not only advocate for inclusive youth engagement in decision-making processes but take action to support youth in tackling the underlying challenges that limit our active and impactful involvement at all levels. Programs and spaces for young people to engage in decision making and contribute positively toward their communities are rare but of great significance, making PMNCH’s Adolescent and Youth Constituency (AYC) a perfect opportunity to be involved, to be heard and to create change.

Everyone who is involved in the AY constituency recognises the need for a common platform to showcase the work of young people and their potential to be leaders now and in the future. That is why an institutionalised event such as the International Youth Day is important to illustrate and amplify the work adolescents and young people do all over the world. Such moments also provide an opportunity to align partners, set new goals and secure new commitments. If you are reading this, take some time to think: How can you actively support adolescents and young people? What are their needs and challenges? How can the youth of today hold themselves as well as the world accountable?

These questions may not be easy to answer, as barriers for young people to reach their full potential (such as lack of tools, unemployment, limited spaces in decision making bodies and lack of access to education) are still all pervasive. However, there’s an evident need to create collaborations and align efforts across sectors and between youth organisations themselves. Over the past few months, PMNCH in collaboration with the AYC has developed a mentorship programme which aims at achieving the following goals:

  • to build the capacity of AY constituency organisations with increased knowledge and skills to prepare them for future career development and to enhance the work of their organisations in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (SRMNCAH) at all levels;
  • to provide a structured, mutually beneficial platform where constituencies can engage, and members can learn from one another and share their experiences; and
  • to pool resources and share learnings across the AY Constituency and other youth networks.

I genuinely believe that this mentorship programme is a good example of a cross-sectoral collaborative effort by all partners and for youth partners that will build young people’s skills and capacity. It will equip some of us with the tools to shape our future the way we want it to be.

Step by step we are getting somewhere! I can’t help but take my hat off to the outstanding work being done by youth-led organisations —especially those I’ve experienced first hand as part of IFMSA and the AYC. However, much more still needs to be done. We need to foster and preserve what we have already achieved, at the same time we also need to be resilient and keep making alliances and pushing for our voices to be heard. Only by doing so, will we be able to tackle once and for all, those underlying causes that hinder our equal participation and engagement at all levels.

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