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Youth demands accepted by government

written by More Matshidiso
A declaration by young delegates to the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids National Youth Conference has been handed to national leaders.

Young people finding ways to help eradicate the impact of HIV. (Photo: HEAIDS)Government has committed to work with its partners to implement the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids National Youth Conference declaration handed to leaders by the youth.

More than 1 800 young people from across the country gathered at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban for the event.

The conference was convened to find ways to help eradicate the impact of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and TB. It also aimed at strengthening responses to all health and wellness issues in higher education.

Youth delegates to the conference summarised their main objectives in a declaration presented to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela, and conference chair Andile Mthombeni.

The youth said the declaration is their way of holding government accountable.

They called on government leaders to pledge on their full and sustained commitment to achieving the objectives.

These include:

  • Free education for the economically vulnerable, as youth understands that HIV status and financial status are interlinked.
  • Supporting youth in implementing women empowerment programmes that include men, so both can actively participate in discussions on gender and so fight patriarchy.
  • Addressing patriarchy and male privilege within government, so policy makers will understand the importance of fighting gender-based violence and empowering women and girls.
  • Establishing emergency medical and counselling services for survivors of gender-based violence that are accessible to all young people.
  • Finding a sustainable mechanism to provide sanitary towels to all female students
  • Addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and holding universities and colleges accountable for responding to these needs.
  • Making the National Youth Development Agency accessible to all youth.
  • Helping youth to activate the youth sector of the South African National Aids Council.
  • Funding regular youth summits and dialogues at educational institutions to give youth the chance to raise their concerns directly with the country’s leaders.

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, HIV/Aids programme director for the Department of Higher Education, said the declaration was taken seriously, and that government would work with its partners to ensure its implementation.

“We have long believed that the traditional top-down approach is severely outdated and that if the HIV pandemic is to be halted, a new approach should to be taken,” he said.

“It is clear that our current HIV/Aids interventions are not adequately reaching our young people.”