YouAct Workshop at the University College Utrecht
Author: Camila Ochoa Mendoza
In December 2015, a group of students from the University College Utrecht came together to discuss, in the framework of the “Have You Seen My Rights” Campaign. The aim of the workshop was to create a safe space for youth to discuss and analyze how sexual health and rights are addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. It was an opportunity for students to brainstorm and learn about different issues regarding SRHR that are currently present, and some of the root causes. As a way of raising awareness about sexual health and rights, the last half of the workshop was dedicated to creating a stop motion film where students could use their creativity to show what they learnt during the workshop and share a message.
The majority of the workshop was spent engaging in fruitful discussion. Students addressed the SRHR issues that they found most prevalent in Western culture, and came up with suggestions on how to tackle these issues. It was unanimously agreed that comprehensive sexual education is the most effective way of challenging prejudices that currently exist. Most students participating in the workshop come from fairly progressive countries, where it is taken for granted that people of all ages have control of their own sexuality, and have access to information and healthcare they need to make their own choices. However, gender inequality is still present, and LGBTQ can still be a taboo subject. Therefore, efforts need to be made in order to improve the way these topics are addressed. One suggestion was to pay attention to the language that is used, as it can reinforce gender stereotypes. Educators and health care providers should encourage neutral language, avoid using normative examples, and discourage youth from using gender or sexual-based insults. Another suggestion is to create safe spaces where youth can exercise gender fluidity.
Students enjoyed the discussions, especially as it was a topic that one does not have a chance to engage in on a day-to-day basis. As a SRHR youth-advocate, I’m used to talking about gender and sexuality, for most people, this is not the case. I overestimated how much my peers knew about SRHR. Young people are eager to have these discussions, but are rarely given the appropriate platform to do so. In the end, we only dissected two of the five pledges; be a global leader in youth and adolescent health and rights, and commit to comprehensive education. These are the two that are most relevant in this context, and were the only two that people had a good understanding of and could contribute to. As a youth-advocate, I realized that even though the ‘Global North’ has a lot of privilege and is already fairly progressive in terms of SRHR, these issues still need to be discussed. Not only for people to understand what they take for granted, but also because there are still so many aspects of sexual rights that still need to be addressed.
Here are the links for the stop-motion videos:
Youth Advocates: https://youtu.be/1dp6dKnAkhA