Year after ICPD 25 at Nairobi: `Young people should have right to decide about their life’

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Bhubaneswar: ‘I always had the passion to work for people especially girls and women but I had no idea that by doing my small bit at community level I was also contributing for the welfare and development of my country. My visit to Nairobi ICDP 25 Conference last year made me realise the challenges faced by girls and women around the world and I am proud of the work that we peer leaders are doing at our level for the welfare of the community’, said Deepanjali Swain, a 20-year-old girl from one of the slums of Bhubaneswar.
It was one year ago that Deepanjali, represented India at the International Conference on Population and Development held at Nairobi from 12-14th November 2019. She is one of the peer leaders of Socially Smart Bhubaneswar, a joint initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL). She was part of the delegation that was sent from India by United Nations Population Fund, New Delhi. The conversations took up the rights of young people and adolescents, advances in reproductive technology, family planning, low fertility, demographic shifts such as ageing societies, sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living with disabilities, and many other critical concerns.
Deepanjali is the daughter of Shri Toffan Kuman Swain who works as a temporary worker in the government press. They are six siblings, Deepanjali being the second one. His father is the only earning member of the house and the family lives in a lot of economic hardship. In spite of all the struggle, she always had the zeal to help her community. When she got the opportunity to associate as a peer leader with the social project of smart city in 2017, she readily got associated with the project besides bringing on board many more young people of the slum as well.
The Social project of Smart city also referred to as ‘Citizen Centric Planning for making Bhubaneswar a socially smart city’ is a collaborative initiative with United Nations Population Fund and is being implemented through Partner NGO ‘Humara Bachpan Trust’ in 100 slums of the city. The project focuses on young people both within and outside of educational institutions. One of the major focus of the project was developing young leaders also referred to as Peer leaders to help address issues and challenges of the community.
In fact, it was for young people like Deepanjali that the project was able to move forward in nurturing young leaders at slum level and effectively addressing issues and challenges of the community. These youth played tremendous role in addressing issues like creating better understanding of young people on sexual and reproductive health, creating safe spaces of girls and children, sanitation, strengthening infrastructural facilities like street lights, handpumps, community toilets etc, bringing children back to school, creating awareness on child marriage, gender-based violence and linking young people with skill training opportunities.
Twenty-six years ago, in 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), officials from 179 countries adopted a revolutionary Programme of Action and called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take centre stage in national and global development efforts. Last year, in 2019, the ICPD25 conference was organise to assess the progress made, renew the commitments and accelerate the promises that were made by governments.
The Nairobi Conference helped to further strengthen commitment of young people like Deepanjali who are now working to help young girls and women of slum to lead a healthy and safe life. They work closely with ASHA and Anganwadi workers to support mothers and children in their critical stages of development, organise meetings with officials of National Health Mission to create better understanding of youth on issues of sexual and reproductive health.
Since July 2020, 120 peer leaders including Deepanjali are working as “Covid Sachetak” at community level helping create awareness on issues of COVID19, ensuring following of guidelines set by government, linking affected people with government support machinery including transferring them to COVID Care Centre, hospitals etc. In fact, these young people have moved from house to house to create awareness during the pandemic period on the one hand and on the other they have helped the community by linking them with the required support services during the lock down and shut down period. This peer leaders work closely with the important stakeholders of the community and government officials and their concerted effort has gone a long way to curtail the spread of infection in the pandemic situation.
By providing opportunities to young people to represent their countries at international level helps to bring ground issues to the notice of the world leaders thereby creating scope of being translated into agendas of the various Governments. Deepanjali mentions, “She feels committed for creating a world where every young women and men, people with disabilities and persons from LGBTI communities have the power to decide about their own bodies, their lives and their future freely”.

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