MELBOURNE, Australia – At the International AIDS Conference 2014 today, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, launched a youth networking zone called the coolibah, where, throughout the week, it will host a range of activities for and with young people, including a series of luncheons with leaders in the field of HIV and AIDS.
Speaking to some 100 conference delegates during the launch, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Kate Gilmore said the coolibah symbolized the Fund’s commitment to addressing three key realities: the lack of safe spaces for young people to come together to discuss their sexual and reproductive health; the lack of opportunities for youth to participate in and influence public policy; and the lack of opportunities for effective dialogue between young people and those who hold power.
“This space symbolizes the pressing need to breaking open public places for young people so that they may claim their right to speak, to sing, to dance, to celebrate, to grieve and to insist that no matter your age, no matter your identity, wherever you come from: each and every one of us is born equal in dignity and in human rights,” Ms. Gilmore said.
“For the United Nations Population Fund, young people are not just one among a number of population groups. They are the group. It is they who are suffering the gravest human rights violations in regards to their sexual and reproductive health and it is they who are paying with their lives for the silence of the over-25s in the face of these abuses.”
Ms. Gilmore noted that failures to provide for young people’s sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, preventable maternal mortality and sexual transmitted infections are taking the highest toll on those under 25 years of age.
“The greatest killer of all is not just the absence of life-saving drugs or only the absence of information, nor merely service providers who stigmatize when they should welcome,” she said. “The greatest killer of all is adults’ silence and their systematic cancelling-out, denying, of the human reality that the journey from childhood to adulthood is a journey of sexual and reproductive awakening and identity formation.”
The coolibah will open daily with interactive discussions, including networking lunches with leaders and activists working to end the HIV epidemic.
“The coolibah is an Australian aboriginal name for a gum tree whose expanse provides shade, and thus a space for spontaneous conversations,” UNFPA Technical Analyst Prateek Awasthi said.
“At coolibah, young leaders from around the world can meet other global leaders, ask questions and contribute to how formal leaders must be held accountable for the grave violations of human rights that adolescents and youth face every day.”
Ms. Gilmore called on the world to expand the space for young people to be heard, included and respected. She said the contradictions and hypocrisies that are depriving young people of voice, participation and opportunity must be named, challenged and changed.
For more information, please contact:
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