Issifou Diallo Agaichatou is a Youth Action Movement (YAM) from Niger, and a vibrant campaigner against Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in Africa. These are the highlights of the remarks she made in her address to African Parliamentarians at the Forum of African Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FPA) side event held on 26 January 2017 ahead of the 28th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she and other young people presented their expectations to the Legislators.
"What is my expectation of African Parliamentarians with regard harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth?
I hope to see African Parliamentarians following up on their commitments towards harnessing the demographic dividend by taking action. Many of our Parliamentarians have made various pledges that will ensure that the youth’s interests will be prioritized and attended to, and which will result in their improved livelihoods, but I hope that these promises will not just be on paper and in their speech, but that they will actually follow up and act on their commitments.
I also hope that their actions will not be confined to the urban areas, but that they will bring the demographic dividend message to the rural areas, and that all people –including those at the grassroots level, will understand what it means and how they too can work towards harnessing it. One example of why I say so is because it is common to see young girls in my home country of Niger becoming mothers even before they reach 15 years. These girls have to then drop out of school and it thereafter becomes almost impossible for them to return even when they are ready to do so, because of lack of support –from their families, the community, and the school system.
I hope that Parliamentarians, through their commitment to the demographic dividend and other related policies and laws, will come down to the communities and advocate for among others, the return of young mothers to school and their encouragement to complete their education. Child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation are also great issues of concern to Niger girls, so I hope they will be champions in advocating against these retrogressive cultural practices.
I also hope our Parliamentarians will advocate for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools, as well as young people’s access to quality and youth-friendly reproductive health information and services. I know for a fact that when young people are empowered with age-appropriate sexuality education and services, they are better placed to make clear-headed decisions about their sexual health.
It is my sincere hope that African Parliamentarians will look seriously into the plight of millions of vulnerable, marginalized and underserved youth. That it won’t be all talk and no action. I hope to see them raising their voices in Parliament about the youth development agenda, and coming down to the grassroots level to ensure that respective policies are being implemented. On our part as young people, we will do all that we can to ensure that we are participating in development conversations and seeking solutions to problems."
IPPF Africa Region supported the participation of young people –members of the Youth Action Movement (IPPF’s youth body) such as Ms. Diallo to participate in various youth and gender-focused side events at the Summit. If you are a young person who is interested in Africa’s development, then join the Youth Action Movement in your country today.
Story by Maryanne W. Waweru, IPPF Africa Region.