Beyond Borders: My Journey as a Youth Advocate from the Global South



PICTURE THIS: sitting in the hallowed halls of the Dutch Parliament, surrounded by influential leaders, policymakers, and International NGO workers from around the world. I felt a surge of pride and excitement, knowing that my voice, as a young person from the Global South, was about to be heard on a global stage in front of leaders and politicians from the Global North. I’m a 28-year-old youth activist from Indonesia – a country where youth participation is frequently tokenistic. I have seldom had the opportunity to voice my perspectives, let alone advocate for my “grand ideas” to create a more just world for fellow youths.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

The phrase above conveniently depicts the reality of power relations between the states, funders, big organisations and young people. It reveals the practice of youth partnership or youth participation in many fields, particularly Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (AYSRHR).

Traditionally, youth have been relegated to passive roles, viewed as recipients rather than architects of development, lacking equal rights compared to adults. Despite youth-led organisations’ relentless efforts to strive for meaningful and inclusive youth participation in SRHR, young people often find themselves marginalised and overlooked.

HERE’S THE THING: I grew up in a society where talking about sexuality and reproductive health was avoided. I saw firsthand the harm that silence and misinformation can cause young people. And so, I want to share an experience with you that validates a cause I’ve been advocating for a long time: Youth Partnership.

On 19 March 2024, a memorable event took place that further cemented my dedication to the cause of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Women’s Empowerment.

I found myself seated at a roundtable discussion hosted by none other than the House of Representatives of The Netherlands. As a representative of the YIELD Hub, I was there with a mission: to enlighten policymakers and politicians on the urgent need to shape their Dutch Global Health Strategy 2023 – 2030 with a meaningful and inclusive youth partnership in Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (AYSRHR). The task was tremendous, but the fire within me was ignited and ready to blaze.

Influential figures like Marieke Ridder from Rutgers, Samuel Matsikure from Aidsfonds, and Caspar Lobbrecht from IOB (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Netherlands) shared their valuable insights at the table. Their stories ignited my passion, emphasising our mission’s importance.

MY MOMENT FINALLY CAME: In three minutes, I presented our stance, as the YIELD Hub, on why youth partnership in AYSRHR is crucial and our Call to Action. I was not nervous but rather electrified, knowing the significance of my words and our mission. This presentation was an appeal for a cause I deeply believe in – the necessity of youth engagement in SRHR.

After the session, I chatted with  Samuel Matsikure from Aidsfonds (pictured below on the right), and Mrs Sarah Dobbe, a Socialistische Partij (SP) Tweede Kamerlid (pictured below on the left). With Mrs Dobbe, I specifically emphasised that the call to action that YIELD Hub brought to today’s discussion had to go beyond this hall. We must act on our commitments to inclusive youth partnerships in AYSRHR decision-making.

LET’S BREAK IT DOWN: meaningful youth partnership means more than just having a seat at the table. It means actively involving young people in every step of the journey, from planning to implementation. It means recognising the unique perspectives and experiences that young people bring to the table and valuing them as equal partners. It means that more young people will talk at the global forum, be part of parliament, or even become youth advisors for the government. It sounds amazing, right?

BUT HERE’S THE CATCH: achieving this requires an enormous shift in power dynamics, moving from top-down approaches to respectful Youth-Adult Partnerships. It recognises young people as not just future leaders but also today’s leaders, deserving of respect and autonomy in decision-making.

Are you interested in learning more about Youth Partnership? Since you’re already here, explore our website and social media platforms. Our position paper, accessible here, provides our vision and recommendations for advancing global youth sexual and reproductive health rights. The roundtable discussion can be replayed here. You can also watch the clip from my segment of the presentation in the video below.

My time at the Dutch Parliament affirmed the importance of youth partnership. It served as a reminder that regardless of our origins, young people (like me and you) possess the agency and potential to shape their destinies and contribute to societal well-being. From the south to the north, we must harness this potential, amplify youth voices, and collaborate towards a future where AYSRHR is a reality for all– by youth, through youth-adult partnership, and for youth!