In November 2018, Rise Up sponsored a delegation of our Youth Champions to attend the International Conference on Family Planning and the Youth Pre-Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. These powerful young leaders and innovators in sexual and reproductive health and rights joined this important global convening to share their knowledge and expertise, and connect with fellow leaders and experts in the field. Read about some of their experiences and motivations below.
Shubham Choudhary, CEO, Safe Access
Shubham founded and leads Safe Access, which is working to provide equitable healthcare for the LGBTQ community in India by sensitizing healthcare workers and connecting the LGBTQ community with compassionate and non-judgmental providers.
“I am passionate about youth sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) because they are human rights which are often denied to young people…I applied to Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative because I wanted to address these issues in my community. Rise Up is the right place for young people to get the required support and resources to kick start their journey as a leader.”
“I was excited to participate in ICFP to meet and learn from fellow leaders and young people who are working on family planning issues and pushing the bar to make family planning more inclusive. My favorite part of ICFP was facilitating the workshop on do-it-yourself (DIY) menstrual pads at the Youth Pre-Conference and learning from other young people by sharing resources and knowledge!”
Neelam Punjani, Ph.D. Student & Research Assistant, University of Alberta
Neelam is a deeply committed advocate for the SRHR of youth. Her Ph.D research focuses on improving the quality of life for adolescents and women by integrating sexual and mental healthcare.
“Working with young people on some of the most stigmatized topics like SRHR is not a challenge that many people would welcome. It is sometimes difficult, often frustrating and at times confrontational. But for me advocating for young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and helping them to make informed decisions is simply the best job in the world! I applied to Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative so that I can advance my knowledge on SRHR and learn innovative strategies to mitigate the challenges faced by young people related to their SRHR needs.”
“I believe that the younger generation has the power and rights to speak up and be well-informed about decisions that determine their health and well-being to protect themselves from harmful consequences.”
Marlo Barrera, Program Director, The Reproductive Justice Action Collective (ReJAC)
Marlo is a founding member of ReJAC, a New Orleans-based organizing network for southerners to share information, ideas, and human power related to reproductive rights. Marlo also works at 4.0 Schools as the Essentials Fellowship Coordinator.
“I am passionate about youth sexual and reproductive health and rights because access to accurate, unbiased information and services, in which the whole individual with their intersecting identities is seen and respected, is a basic human right…What I am most proud of in my work is the community and support system that we have built in our city while increasing access to sex-ed information and emergency contraception.”
“My favorite part of ICFP was the opportunity to reconnect with my YCI cohort, build relationships with fellows from the first cohort, and meet other folks around the world doing reproductive health work with equity and dignity at the center.”
Ankita Rawat, Co-Founder, BeyondEye
Ankita is a sexuality education trainer who has worked with youth leaders to improve their access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and rights services and on transforming young men’s perspectives on sexuality, relationships, and family planning.
“With Rise Up’s support, I have worked to build my confidence to come up with ideas and am not afraid to test them.”
“My favorite part of ICFP was listening to young people’s stories and their experiences from different countries and feeling the commonalities.”
Naureen Lalani, Sexual & Reproductive Health Manager, Aahung
Naureen trains healthcare workers on rights-based, holistic approaches to sexual and reproductive health and rights and has developed user-friendly sexual and reproductive health resources for people with disabilities.
“Since becoming a Youth Champion, I am more vocal about the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of young people and people living with physical disabilities. I also advocate for giving out the right information to them with friendly services.”
“What I am most proud of in my work is the development of user-friendly resources that are one-of-a-kind in Pakistan. [Before] there was no material available on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues for people with visual impairments in braille and there were no AV tools for deaf and mute people in sign language on sexual and reproductive health and rights.”