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Youth Can Transform Conversation, Action Surrounding Reproductive Health Access

Young people under age 25 worldwide have “an indispensable role to play in achieving international development goals, driving economic and social development, and shaping the course of history … [y]et around the world, young people are all too often unable to make critical choices that impact their futures,” Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver, and Remmy Shawa of the Sonke Gender Justice Network and one of the Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “Unmet need for contraception is greatest for women under the age of 20 and, in the world’s poorest countries, one in three women has a child before the age of 18,” they state, adding, “Consequently, pregnancy and childbirth-related complications remain the leading killer of teenage girls in the developing world.”

“First, we need developing country governments and donors to prioritize and scale up youth sexual and reproductive health programs,” Sheffield and Shawa write. “Second, we need to reduce the stigma associated with youth sexuality,” they state, adding, “Third, we need to encourage and empower young people to be their own advocates and agents for change.” They continue, “And, finally, we must involve boys and men in the process.” Noting September 26 is World Contraception Day, they write, “By enacting supportive policies, bringing new voices into the conversation, and implementing effective, age and culturally-appropriate family planning programs, we can make a real and lasting impact on the lives of young people everywhere and help ignite a virtuous cycle of development” (9/23).