During the European Development Days 2013, there was a strong focus on youth, as the event welcomed for the first time 12 youth ambassadors from around the world, three of whom were 18 or under. Each ambassador was selected to attend a high-level auditorium session where they were encouraged to join the debate by asking questions and sharing their thoughts. To launch Youth Week, two ambassadors, Esther Eshiet and Restanti Waruwu, share their views with capacity4dev.eu on health and nutrition, and how these should be addressed in the post-2015 agenda.
Esther Eshiet is a 26 year old social worker from Nigeria. She is currently working for the Bridge Leadership Foundation,and in November 2013 she attended the European Development Days (EDDs) as a youth ambassador for Plan International. She was selected based on the work that she’s done on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 agenda, notably in the area of sexual and reproductive health.
When Esther was 18 she joined a project in Nigeria funded by the European Union called Youth with Future: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Young People. The project aimed to educate and raise awareness among young people on sexual health, while improving their accessibility to contraceptives and other health services. It also trained young people in leadership and career development.
Youth with Future was run by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria and carried out in two Nigerian states (Plateau and Cross River). Youth centres were also created in the capital cities of these states: Jos and Calabar. Although the project only ran for two years from 2004 – 2005, the youth centres remain active today.
Esther is one of the success stories of this project. She volunteered for three years in one of the youth centres both in the counselling unit and as a librarian assistant. “This was one of the major deciders of my career,” she says. The experience helped Esther to not only build a career in the development sector, but also to choose her career path: “It helped me finalise the decision to study social work in a professional angle and to build the skills that I have now.”
Health remains an important topic for her, and she believes that “investing in young girls really does build society.”
As well as attending the EDDs, she represented her country at the first youth panel of the UN High Level Panel that met to discuss the post-2015 development agenda.
In keeping with her interests, at the EDDs Esther was asked to attend and contibute to the Auditorium Session Finishing and Moving Beyond the Health MDGs. She was pleased to note that health was looked at from a holistic perspective addressing infrastructure, financing, service provision and aid, among others.
Regarding the post-2015 development agenda, Esther would like to see a continued investment for young people in sexual and reproductive health, “it helps to build young persons beyond teaching them about their sexual and reproductive health, but much more by helping them to understand who they are, understand where they are going to in life, and also even building their capacities for the future for their careers. Because that’s the experience that I had and that’s the experience that sexual and reproductive health training did for me.”
Over 10,000 kilometres away in Nias, Indonesia, Restanti Waruwu is also trying to affect change in her local community, this time through nutrition. 16 year old Retanti has been involved in several projects to develop her community, notably the creation of a nutrition garden assisting those who do not have enough food to sustain themselves.
“My friends and I are trying to solve the problems in our home country,” says Restanti. “Especially the ones related to MDGs, specifically the ones related to food and nutrition building.”
“There’s a reason why we make the nutrition garden,” she explains. “Because we see in our home town there are many malnourished children and undernourished children.” In 2012 there were 15 malnourished children in her village, in 2013 this figure almost doubled to 28. Restanti regrets that her garden is not enough to supply the needs of the entire population, “but at least it can help us to provide for our own needs at home. My friends and I are very happy with what we’ve done because it’s proof that you can do something, we are capable to make a change and that we are sure and very positive that yes, we can.”
The support and funding for this project came from World Vision, who are working with young people in Nias in order to facilitate a children’s forum. Restanti explains that they are not the sole funder. “We would like to try to be independent and stand on our own feet because we are aware that World Vision won’t be always available for us.” Restanti and her friends obtain funding by creating and sending proposals to the government and members of society, for example their teachers. “Through the proposal dissemination we are trying to build a network, we are trying to partner with the government, and then with the society and educators, and with most of the stakeholders.”
Restanti also attended the EDDs, through support from World Vision. The selection process was long, with several steps at district, province and then national level. “I am very happy to be here because out of so many millions children in Indonesia I was to be chosen to be here. It is a very special moment for me.”
Like Esther, Restanti was chosen to pose a question at one of the high level panels,this time on nutrition and resilience building. Looking at the post-2015 development agenda, she hoped that “from this session we can get a better framework for 2030 development agenda, especially in reducing child and maternal mortality and many things.”
This Voices & Views is published as part of Youth Week (3-7 February 2014). Visit the Youth in Development group where you can watch a video introduction to Youth Week from Stina Soewarta, the Head of Unit for Communication and Transparency at EuropeAid.
If you would like to find out more about Restanti's experience at the EDDs you can read her two blogs on the World Vision website: