In the lead up to the 5th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda the Kenya Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Network organized the #ICFPYouthRelay to highlight the role of youth in the process of holding their governments accountable and share young people’s stories and perspectives.
This year’s International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), from November 12 to 15, isn't just in Kigali - you can join, interact, and follow along virtually. ICFP brings together the family planning community to share best practices, celebrate successes and chart a course forward, so don’t let distance stop you from participating.
I’m the middle child and only daughter. I was confused throughout most my childhood about what it meant to be the only girl in my family, alongside my three brothers. But my confusion was almost always sedated by my persistence, or what my mother calls stubbornness. Whenever I reflect on my aspirations and what I value in my work and personal life, I cannot help but think of my mother as the person who has had the greatest influence on my perception and ambitions.
I do all of the things other young people my age do, like hang out with my friends, watch Youtube and Netflix, and listen to music. There are days when I don’t feel pretty and days when I feel great about myself. But there is one thing about me that you couldn’t guess just by looking at me. I’m HIV-positive.
I grew up in what was referred to as a squatters community or captured land. Families living there were below the poverty line. It meant that most were living in poor conditions and seeking a way out. Some women sought refuge in sexual relationships which, more often than not, resulted in early motherhood. I too wanted a better life. Through the help of mentors and teachers who could see my potential, I started to perceive good in myself as well.
Being born into a Pakistani family, it’s not easy to stop listening to what people are saying about you: about the way you dress, you walk, you talk, or you smile. I had to choose between walking away or giving in to people’s expectations. I chose to walk away from the negative aspects of my life and find myself. I believe that taking a stand and leaving behind everything that’s hurting you is the only way to grow, so that’s what I did.
Very few people recognize the role that women play in environment conservation. Research shows that women are more heavily impacted by climate change and natural disasters. Yet, the media seems more keen to portray women as vulnerable victims of environmental disasters and rarely highlights the many innovative solutions that women - especially young women - are using to combat climate change.
I was born and raised in a very small town in Georgia, a country located in the Caucasus region. Living in Georgia in the 1990s was challenging as the country was suffering from socio-economic difficulties after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I remember the times when we had to prepare our homework in the light of a candle or lamp, with no heating in the winter. But what didn’t need electricity were the ideas in our minds.
Growing up, people most often identified me as the “dark-skinned girl” or the “charcoal seller’s daughter.” I come from a community where most daughters end up taking over their mother’s work, and I didn’t want to sell charcoal as a profession. I woke up each day and said to myself that I needed to change.
I remember when I was around eight or nine years old, I used to doodle encouraging messages to myself on my school notebooks. “You are really cool!” or “Kinga is amazing!” were my favorites. While I really believed in my superpowers -- which I thought were both being an optimist and knowing how to communicate with animals -- that didn’t mean that I thought I was better than anyone. My notes were just reminders that I was a strong girl who had hobbies and was surrounded by friends.
I believe in introspection, where one digs deep in their heart to search for who they really are and what their purpose is. This introspection isn’t just for personal gain, but to meaningfully improve the lives of those around them. This process led me to realize that girls and young women often suffer in silence. This has motivated me to speak louder and begin my journey of elevating the voices of the voiceless. I am eager to affect change that will make my community a better place for girls and women.
On May 26, 2018 in a landslide victory (66.4%), the Irish electorate voted to repeal Ireland’s near-total Constitutional ban on abortion: the 8th Amendment. Since 1983, the 8th Amendment forced more than 170,000 women and girls to travel abroad to access abortion services that should have been their right at home. Countless more imported pills, self-administering them without the recommended medical supervision and support. Now, with the impediment of the 8th amendment gone, the government can finally guarantee access to safe abortion in Ireland.
The first time I was embarrassed of my period was the first moment I got it. There was no pretext to that feeling of shame. It was as innate as my breath. There isn’t anything specific from my childhood that led me to this feeling of dirtiness and humiliation. It was just there. I can remember wiping and wiping, urging the blood to go away. I was disgusted by myself.
My journey as a young leader and advocate began when I was about 10 years old. Even as a child, I had so much passion for activism. Together with my fellow young activists, I led many initiatives geared towards advancing the rights of children. However, at the age of 14, my dream was cut short.
We live at a time where there is more opportunity than ever before. For some young women, the principles of feminism are encouraged. They are supported in their endeavors to get an education, be professional, and be independent. They are given equal opportunities with men in terms of education, employment, and inheritance. But, unfortunately, this is not the case for most. Despite our privileges, my generation must continue the fight for equality.