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GOJoven: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders in Sexual and Reproductive Health

October 29, 2011 | Anya Gutman | Dialogue4Health

As the world's population reaches 7 billion, the Millennium Development Goals offer a path toward a healthy and sustainable world. There is every reason to think that seven billion of us can and should live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives now, and for generations to come. Young people alive today are a key to that future, and PHI's Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health (GOJoven) program is making this future a reality for them, and for all of us.

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 helped us to realize that to ensure a sustainable, healthy planet, we must take a more comprehensive and rights-based notion of sexual and reproductive health. This broader approach includes not just family planning but also maternal and infant health, prevention of gender-based violence, empowerment of women and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

The GOJoven program shares this commitment to improving sexual and reproductive health from a comprehensive, rights based perspective. GOJoven is contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which the international community agreed in 2000, by educating, empowering and training young people in Central America and southern Mexico to assume leadership roles in their communities to improve the health and lives of adolescents, youth, women, men and children.

The program seeks to address the goals specifically related to youth and women, including gender equality and empowerment (MDG #3), lowering maternal mortality (MDG #5), combating HIV/AIDS (MDG #6), ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG #7), and eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by achieving productive employment and decent work for young people and achieving universal primary education (MDG #2).

  • Gender equality and empowerment (MDG #3) Our fellows receive training in gender and sexuality. Some of our fellows have gone on to do essential work in this area. Our alumna fellow, Ana Silvia de Rosario Lopez, for example, provides training and education in her Maya Kakchiquel community in Guatemala in gender equality and sexual and reproductive health issues.
  • Lowering maternal mortality (MDG #5) At current rates, over the next decade, an estimated 100 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday--leaving them at great risk of domestic violence, HIV infection and early pregnancy. The latter is the leading cause of death worldwide for females ages 15 to 19. GOJoven is working to prevent child marriage, ensure greater equality between women and men, and reduce unwanted and early pregnancy in communities across Central America and Mexico, where girls might otherwise face unsafe abortions and dangerous pregnancies.
  • Combating HIV/AIDS (MDG #6) HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention is a critical component of the GOJoven training program, and many of our fellows work in the area of HIV prevention. In 2008, a team of GOJoven fellows from Honduras established their own NGO, called Asociacion Jvenes en Movimiento, a dynamic organization which recently received funding for three years to provide HIV prevention programs to more than 20,000 youth.
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG #7) GOJoven integrates the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of our education and learning. Alumnus fellow, Saul Paau Maaz, shares with us the wisdom of his ancestors, the Maya K'iche', and their respect for the interconnectedness of human reproduction with environmental conservation. Saul recently established an NGO dedicated to reducing inequality among indigenous and non-indigenous youth through promoting youth participation, environmental protection, and sexual and reproductive health.
  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by achieving productive employment and decent work for young people and achieve universal primary education (MDG #2) Select fellows have participated in our Training of Trainers program, where they increase their capacity in facilitation and training, thereby gaining greater opportunity to train their organizations, communities and future cohorts of GOJoven fellows. Several of our alumni fellows are employed as trainers in our regional trainings.

GOJoven continues to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs, policies, and outcomes in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico by developing the next generation of young leaders in the region. Find out more about us at www.gojoven.org.

Anya Gutman works with PHI's GoJoven program. Learn more at www.gojoven.org.