The International Women’s Health Coalition’s Jayne Chu just returned from a trip to Beijing, China, where she worked with youth at the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR). Here are some of her notes from the daily goings-on at the conference.
I just arrived in Beijing. It is very cold—or maybe I just think it’s colder because of the way the city is situated–strange lighting and Orwellian tower blocks; and lots of wind that smells foreign.
Today was a really exciting day! It was Youth Day, so we all gathered to meet. The day started off with a really off-tune rendition of “Welcome to Beijing” sung by a group of Chinese young people. It seemed that no one except the older Chinese people were enjoying themselves.
There was quite a progressive opening speech by Dr. Zhao Bai Ge, the chair of the International Steering Committee, where she used magnificent but general phrases such as “consistent implementation of the ICPD (International Conference on Population & Development, Cairo 1994),” “committed to ICPD goals of human development, “rights-based approach as a pre requisite of achieving the goals of the ICPD and MDGs (Millenium Development Goals),” and that youth participation must be “heard, youth participation must be recognized, youth participation must be integrated”. Read the full speech here.
It was really amazing today–this Youth Declaration is such a positive example of the way young people came together here at the conference! it was also prefaced by a pretty great speech by Dr. Gill Greer, who dedicated a large portion of her talk to young people and their needs.
The commitment desks (there are 3 in total) are excellent as well–they really give young people a space to congregate and its central location means that most delegates and participants pass in front. The commitment desk is where people can write what their specific commitment will be to promote youth leadership on sexual rights and reproductive health issues.
We also have some powerhouse mentors, such as Robert Oakeshott, independent Member of the Australian House of Representatives delegate from Australia, who has been really open with his support. Mel Rose Dingal, a young Filipina woman who has been the powerhouse Steering Committee youth representative and who helped organize youth at the conference, organized a youth mentorship program that links youth advocates with experienced advocates in order to build their capacity.
Today was day 2 of the official conference itself and the level of youth participation and energy is still very strong! I’m hearing from a lot of people that it’s much stronger here than at previous APCRSHR’s, specifically because of the youth space and youth day, which young people never had before.
There was a thwarted youth rally today–which was a bit sad actually. The youth committee had secured permission and checked and rechecked that it would be ok to have a youth march. They handed out white t shirts which the young people decorated with slogans, and they had chants set up. We all gathered at noon and began and then quickly the police and convention security descended upon us. Apparently some minister was upset with all the noise and we were limited to walking quietly on 2 floors instead of outside as originally planned. Still, the level of energy was really strong and it seemed to rally at least the psychological level of young people at the conference.
What did youth advocates think of Jayne’s presence? Here’s what Ishita Chaudhry, dynamite youth advocate and Managing Director of YP Foundation in India had to say: “Jayne was an absolutely incredible support system and resource person to have, her ability to guide and at the same time, let us explore our own risks, was really really brilliant. Plus her knowledge of Chinese really saved me from eating some very strange animals, so I’m really super grateful to her!”