Sunday, 27 April 2008

Journalists train on issues affecting adolescent health

With 20 per cent of the global population between the ages of 10-19, today's youth are making a critical impact on the society around them. By the time a young person turns 16, he or she may have moved out of their parents' house, had their first job, had their first sexual experience, had their first child, or even entered their first marriage. The transition from childhood to adulthood is becoming increasingly more demanding as adult expectations and responsibilities are put straight into the hands of adolescents.

“Adolescence is a turbulent time,” said Amy Tsui of John Hopkins University, USA, during her presentation on the demographics of young people around the world at yesterday's Journalist Seminar on Health and Development of Young People, in conjunction with the John Hopkins' 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

But the training revealed that journalists can help adolescents to make a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood by raising positive awareness for counseling and mentorship for youth, sexuality education, guidance and resources for youth, and a lance of peer counseling and parent-to-child communication among other stories.

During a story-generating exercise led by Akin Jimoh of Development Communications Network and Josephine Kamara of Internews Nigeria, Josephine Kamara urged journalists to narrow in on issues of adolescent health and development at the conference by finding people to share personal stories that reflect important issues, such as peer
pressure or sexual violence.

“It will be tempting to cover every presentation and speaker at the conference, but that is impossible,” she said. “Just get the specifics for your topics and tell the issues like they are.”

Journalists then brainstormed a number of topics including abstinence/sex policies, poverty, teen pregnancy, unemployment, media pressure/influence, communicating with adults, discussing taboo issues with parents and teachers, demographic stories, and the effectiveness of current youth programs.

Apart from the brainstorm session, the training also had various presentations on 'Key issues facing young people' from Family Health International, 'HIV Stigma and Discrimination and the Media' by International Center for Research on Women, and 'Finding and Using Data on Youth' by Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Amy Tsui concluded the training by saying, 'I'm not a journalist, I'm not a writer, but I have a strong belief in the importance of what you do.'

By Amanda Hale

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