The World YWCA led a delegation of young people from Central African Republic (CAR)Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Benin and Palestine at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), 4 to 9 December, 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

“Young people, especially in fragile contexts, are among the most affected by HIV; therefore, it is critical that youth participate in ICASA to learn about and speak up for their Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR),” said Amany Abu Awad, World YWCA intern. “Their participation is also important to create networks with other groups and organisations, especially those that are youth-led, and that advocate for youth SRHR, and the human rights of young people affected by HIV. “

The World YWCA participated in ICASA in several ways. Before the conference, the YWCA delivered advocacy training with 19 participants to prepare young delegates for their advocacy role.  The training focused on advocacy skills and strategies, and how to use social media to amplify their voices and drive change in policies affecting their rights.

From 4 to 8 December, the World YWCA hosted an Egumeni Safe Space, which attracted more than 100 participants. The safe space at ICASA was open for both young women and men, allowing the delegates to share their views about the conference, as well as rest, strategize and debrief after long days of engagements. The discussions ranged from just networking to understanding the issues that affect young people from conflict countries.

In addition, the World YWCA conducted two skills building workshops in the Interfaith Zone. The first workshop focused on the role of youth in advocating for SRHR services in fragile contexts. The second workshop emphasized the importance of creating safe spaces for young people to discuss SRHR issues, including HIV/AIDS in fragile contexts. Two young women from YWCA of Benin and Burkina Faso also led a discussion sharing their experiences in creating safe spaces for young women in their YWCAs as part of an intergenerational dialogue with conference participants and faith leaders.

You can listen to interviews with ICASA delegates in French here. Photos taken throughout the event are available here.