On February 7th I attended the Yo!Fest in Maastricht, which is organized by the European Youth Forum. Yo!Fest is a one-day festival bringing together 3000 young people to discuss and participate in workshops related to six topics: Sustainability, Peace, Inclusion, Health, Rights and Participation.
YO!fest not only brings hot topics to the table but also brings issues directly to young people by enabling them to access and participate in a safe space where everybody can discuss matters that interest them.
Together with Rune Bandrup, Youth Programme Specialist from the UNFPA Regional office in Istanbul, I had a stand where we displayed materials and info-graphics related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). I also developed a snakes and ladders game that promotes debate and increases knowledge on the need of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
During the day, lots of events and workshops, TED-talks and games were organized. I am glad that other organizations also placed the focus on the need for SRHR, focusing specifically on refugees and migrants. SRHR for refugees is really important because they are one of the most vunerable groups in the region, and the migrant crisis means their SRHR are often ignored and disrespected.
The organizers wished to highlight the importance of youth participation and this was an overarching theme for the entire festival. As Chairperson of the YSAFE Network, events like YO!fest provide contacts for youth network development, which is key to counteracting the rise in anti-women’s rights.
This type of forum means young people can express their opinions in a participatory process and also learn about projects and other activities in and around Europe. Similary, next year, there will be a European youth event in Strasbourg with the European Youth Forum enabling youth networks to discuss key issues with parliamentarian and members of the European Commission.
Access to SRHR influences our actions in society and limits or enables our freedom to choose and act upon these. Young people are at the pinnacle of our lives and we are discovering what we can do ourselves, as well as figuring out how to live with other people. Understanding basic principles and the processes of our bodies, the liberties and limitations the body has means it is essential to have a safe environment to debate and discuss these topics.