SEYCOHAIDS 2012 - Consensus Statement and Conference Road Map

Crossroads Hotel- Malawi: 6th - 8th November 2012

1.0 Preamble
We, the delegates attending the Southern and Eastern Africa Youth Conference on HIV and AIDS and Reproductive Health Rights for Sustainable Development (SEYCOHAIDS) 2012, held in Lilongwe, at the Crossroads Hotel, Malawi, from 6th to 8th November 2012, on the theme: Building Capacity for AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights through Science, Technology and Best Practices, make a statement as follows:

2.0 We recognize and appreciate:
2.1 The support of the Government and people of Malawi for hosting the inaugural Southern and Eastern Africa Youth Conference on HIV and AIDS and Health Rights for Sustainable Development.

2.2 The sponsorship and support from UNAIDS, HiVOS, UNICEF, UNFPA, loveLIFE, GLOHOMO and National AIDS Commission of Malawi all other partners who contributed towards the success of the Conference.

2.3 That during this conference, we have been able to share best practices and lessons in HIV and Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health (ASRH) interventions.

3.0   We note with concern that:
3.1     Of the five Million  young people living with HIV globally, about 80% are in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS);

3.2   Maternal mortality and HIV and AIDS are the two main causes of death among young women 15 to 24 years in sub-Saharan Africa;

3.3   Sixty-seven percent (67%) of all married adolescent women who want to avoid pregnancy for at least the next two years are not using any method of contraception and 12% are using traditional methods; and this can be attributed to lack of access to services and information, as well as cultural and religious barriers;

3.4   Fifteen (15) countries in Africa are in the top 20 hotspots that practice child marriages in the world. This is attributed to a number of socio-economic and cultural issues including poverty, religious and cultural practices as well as deeply entrenched attitudes and negative mindsets of the people involved;

3.5   There is a lack of consensus on the agreeable age for marriage for the girl child in Malawi and Zimbabwe, with the current ages set at 15 years  and 16 years respectively;

3.6   The Constitution in Malawi stipulates that a girl who is under the age of 15 years can get married if the parents consent to it. This however is a gross violation of the rights of the child to education, right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation, and all forms of violence, right to seek and receive information, right to participate freely in  cultural activities, right for protection from all forms of exploitation, right to interact freely with their peers, and right to health;

3.7   While poverty continues to be blamed as a major cause and driver for child marriage, there is no evidence that early marriage alleviates poverty, but rather creates a cycle of poverty;

3.8   The lack of a reviewed and operational Youth Policy in Malawi has been highlighted as one of the hurdles to effective implementation of youth development programmes in Malawi.

3.9   The legal frameworks in the region fail to adequately punish sex offenders, with light sentences being served to the offenders as compared to other “petty” crimes like theft.

3.10            Most regional governments have failed to put in place concrete and effective programs for support of adolescents living with HIV; and for provision of youth friendly reproductive health services.

3.11            Climate change has a direct impact on health and development issues, and the most affected are women and young girls as they are the ones directly involved in fetching firewood and water, and in farm work; though they rarely benefit from the outputs of farming as they lack control over the produce and land.

4.0 We acknowledge that:
4.1 There are existing internal capabilities and resources within the region at individual, community, organizational, national and regional levels that can form the basis for future capacity building interventions.

4.2 African governments are committed to the review process of Youth policies and plans and to expedite the reviewed documents.  However the processes are taking too long in some of the countries, and there is a lack of meaningful participation of youth in the processes.

4.3 The regional governments have ratified the African Youth Charter; however we recommend that it is domesticated and used to inform the Youth policies and development programs in the respective countries.

 4.4 Funding alone cannot deal with the issues of child marriages, as well as HIV and SRH support. The community systems require strengthening in order to support effective HIV and SRH programs and interventions for adolescents at the community level to achieve universal access to health and the MDGs by 2015.

4.5 There are best practices and models of HIV and SRH capacity building in the region that can be replicated and scaled up; including improved family planning programs targeted at the youth, to prevent unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

4.6 There are lessons learnt from the past that will inform the future particularly with regard to developing local capacities for effective programming of HIV and AIDS and SRH and community systems strengthening.

5.0 In view of all these factors, We call Upon:
5.1 Delegates, civil society organizations, governments, private sector, and other stakeholders, as well as regional economic communities in the Eastern and Southern Africa region to commit themselves to adopt these resolutions, and play their role as partners in the implementation of effective HIV and SRH interventions for adolescents by 2015.

5.2 Governments to increase and sustain annual budgets for adolescent HIV and SRH initiatives to work towards the goal of Getting to Zero - Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths.

5.3 Development partners to increase their support for adolescent HIV and SRH programs and work in tandem with governments and civil society to streamline funding mechanisms and technical assistance for HIV and SRH capacity building and work towards concrete action plans with clear targets and results.

5.4 Regional governments to have operational National Youth Policies by June, 2013, with a plan of action about how it should be operationalized; and released to the stakeholders for use and reference by March 2013;

5.5 Regional African governments to come up with laws that can govern the use and abuse of drugs For example, the Mututho Law in Kenya may be used as a best practice in a bid to cub alcohol abuse among the citizenry;

5.6 Young people to stand up and speak with a collective voice, to demand their rights to prevention, care and support for HIV, as well as youth friendly SRH services; and take up the empowerment opportunities available for them.

5.7 Communities to become more engaged and involved in support for HIV and SRH/ interventions for adolescents, and scale up initiatives for sustainable local responses.

6.0 We, the youth delegates commit:
6.1 To complement governments’ efforts in tackling youth development issues through our different networks.
6.2 To adapt, scale up, and share the best practices we have learnt from the conference.
6.3 To champion the youth to demand their rights to prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV, as well as youth friendly SRH services; and take up the empowerment opportunities available for them.

6.4 To leverage funding opportunities from private sector and development partners for regional and country youth networks.

6.5 To monitor government and donor commitments on intervention youth programmes on HIV and SRH/FP rights.

We make this declaration in full hope that the stakeholders will work to ensure its fulfillment and in appreciation of the leadership role, we as youth will need to perform in holding them to account.  We also bear in mind that “There is nothing for youth without the Youth.”

                         Lilongwe, Malawi, 8th November, 2012