Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Conference youth summit debates the definition of ‘youth’

The 3rd Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights launched yesterday with a youth summit at Taraba Hall, International Conference Center, Abuja, to bring youth from Nigeria and around the world together and discuss the role of sexuality in young people’s lives.

Laura Villa Torres of IPAS began the summit by welcoming youth delegates to the conference and urging young people to be open and to contribute innovative ideas throughout the week.

A key discussion during the summit was the definition of ‘youth’ and where to draw the line between a young person and an adult. Many youth delegates voiced that considering the age limit of the Institute, what happens to people who are above 24 years of age?

Mrs. Nike Esiet, Executive Director at Action Health Incorporated, Lagos, voiced that the World Health Organization (WHO) defines young people as those between 10-19 years of age, while youth are defined as those between 15-24 years of age. As such, Esiet said that the conference should have a cut-off age for youth participants, because the issues deemed important to someone in their late teens or early 20s will be much different from someone in their early 30s.

Some youth participants then argued that a youth is between the ages of 13 and 35, while some said that being a youth is a ‘thing of the mind’. Others believed that once a persons marries, that person ceases to be a youth, e.g. an unmarried 36-year-old can still be addressed as a youth and a married 23-year-old is no longer a youth.

Delegates agreed that regardless of the proper definition of what a ‘youth’ entails that they would join together learn the problems faced by young people in other African countries, to know the challenges facing young people in the sexuality field, and to join forces with other young people to have their voices heard.

Youth involvement is at the core of the sexuality conference, with side events such as youth sexuality discussions and youth capacity events sponsored by IPPF, IPAS, IWHC, and AHI to promote dialogue between adults and youth on sensitive issues such as sexuality education, sexual violence and abuse, gender roles and traditional practices.

* By Amanda Hale

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