oral statement: 45th commission on population and development

April 1, 2012 logo

The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) was formally established in 1993 as a regional non-profit and non-governmental organisation concerned with ensuring that development policies and plans influencing women’s health status included women’s and gender perspectives. ARROW’s vision is for women and young people in Asia and the Pacific to be better able to define and control their lives, particularly in the area of health and sexuality. Since 1993, ARROW has been able to make significant progress towards this vision. ARROW recognises the importance to work with young people especially to ensure young women and girl’s voices are taken into account within decision making, planning, implementation as well as monitoing and evaluation processes.


Young people today is living in a world where the opposition to SRHR1 builds from strength to strength by handing down resources, experience and institutional support from generation to generation, the progressive advocates of the SRHR movement have yet to achieve effective, sustained and reliable transition systems of the next line of leadership development.

Young people today are the largest population of young people in human history. Worldwide, the number of youth increased from 461 million in 1950 to 1.21 billion in 2010. Currently, Asia has, by far, the largest number of youths which comprise of 754 million populations. Their number almost tripled since 19502. Unfortunately, young people today also face multilayered problems. Every five minutes a young person commits suicide; often due to emotional and social problems related to sexual and reproductive health, such as sexual violence and the breakdown of relationships3. On top of that, the South East Asian and the Pacific regions have the second highest HIV prevalence rates with about 1.27 million young people living with HIV4.


There is also the issue young people, especially young girls, access to comprehensive information in regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The United Nations Secretary General’s report reflects that in 2007, national surveys found that 40% of young males (ages 15-24) and 36% of young females had accurate knowledge regarding HIV — still well below the 95 per cent goal for young people’s HIV knowledge unanimously endorsed by Member States in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS5. Young girls in the region are faced with the politics of gender inequality, puberty6, parental and marriage consent7 which pose further challenges in obtaining accurate and reliable information about their own bodies and sexuality8.


According to ARROW’s analysis on ICPD+15 in 12 countries progress, the progress on imparting sex education and sexuality education to adolescent in the 12 countries of Asia is uneven and sketchy. Less than 30% of these countries have made attempts to introduce the sex education within the curriculum, although more countries claim that some aspect of sex education is integrated within existing subjects in the present curriculum.

In addition, in most countries unmarried young people still face many barriers, some legal, some socially discriminatory, to accessing the SRH services. It is clear from the lack of provision of education, information and services to young people who are in dire need of these that governments in the region are hesitant to recognize the role of sexuality beyond its function in reproduction.


Most young people become sexually active by the age of 20, however their access to contraception information and services is low. The lack of access to contraception and safe abortion services puts young women and girls at risk of unsafe abortions aggravating their health risks. Furthermore, there is a lack of disaggregated reliable data on the unmet need for contraception among young people.


Youth employability, basic livelihood, and entrepreneurship have become the main targets for the international donor community in giving financial support and investment for young people’s issues. This is at the expense of the issues of young people’s gender equality, human rights and health (especially sexual and reproductive health and rights which include HIV/AIDS) which are sidelined from the priorities9. On top of that, according to a research on the need for young feminist initiatives funds by AWID10, the pressure on funding doubled for the initiatives that address young women and girls’ issues and accessing sustainable funding has become a major barrier. Furthermore the South East Asia sub region accounts for only 2% of overall project implemented to advancing young women and girls leadership mobilization. Financing young people’s issues is still perceived as a luxury.


In recognition of these facts, ARROW has invested in the development of a young people’s SRHR advocacy partnership project called the Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership-South East Asia (WHRAP-SEA)11. Initiated in 2009 and focusing on the issues of young people, HIV and education, the advocacy generated around young people’s access to comprehensive sexuality education is defined and lead by grassroots youth activists from marginalized communities of young people, including from Burma: Burma Medical Association, Migrants Action Programme and Myanmar Positive Women’s Network; Cambodia: Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC); China: Yunnan Health Development and Research Association (YHDRA); Indonesia: Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan; Laos: University of Health Sciences (UHS); The Philippines: Likhaan; and Vietnam: Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP).


Some initial results include the successful local youth mobilization to mainstream young people’s SRHR issues inside the community council priority issues in Siem Riep, Cambodia which has enabled young people especially young women to enjoy free services in public clinics; as well as the creation of the first ethnic group young women leadership network among Jing Po people in China-Burma border that addresses the urgent need to include young women and girls as priority of harm reduction intervention; the discussion about pleasure and virginity and it relations to religious fundamentalism among young people in Indonesia as a step to create the largest youth network on SRHR; attain young factory worker rights in Vietnam to uphold their sexual rights by utilize their worker rights movement; so does the rally and mobilization of 180 cross sector youth networks in Philippines to ask for RH bill to include young people and adolescent RH issues.


WHRAP SEA’s regional youth advocacy interventions have resulted in increased presence of non-English-speaking youth leadership in a number of international and regional conferences, putting forth advocacy evidence and arguments that are grounded in the realities of the youth activists and their grassroots constituencies. This is clearly an added value to the present youth leadership in SRHR, which tends to be more English- speaking and not always representative of communities of marginalized youth. Some immediate benefits of creating the advocacy platform for youth advocates especially the young women activist to collaborate have included the mobilisation and advocacy in regional and national fora.


Learning from our partners work on the ground and the evidence on young people sexual and reproductive health and rights in the region, we call upon the member states to recognize the universality of sexual and reproductive health and rights with focus on young people (including adolescents), we believes that Member States must:


  • Invest on innovative funding scheme support that put young women and girl’s sexual and reproductive health and rights at the center of development priorities. By giving direct support to women organization and collectives as well as young people’s led initiatives, an ample long term support in advancing social change and equity.


  • Moving beyond meaningful participation toward creation of a systemic platform in support of young people especially young women and girls leadership.


  • Understanding the multiple layer of marginalization and representation by having specific focus on diversity of young people, such as young women and girls; young people living with HIV/AIDS, young migrant worker, young LGBTIQ, young sex worker, young people who use drugs and other young people whoare denied to claimed their sexual and reproductive rights.


  • The institutionalization of universal comprehensive, gender-sensitive and evidence-based sexuality education curriculum, that enables young people (including adolescents) to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The provision of such comprehensive sexuality education12 in both formal settings of schools and informal settings of communities13. Furthermore, this comprehensive sexuality education is embedded in a human rights framework, which includes rights to be free from discrimination, coercion and violence, and rights based on positive ethical principles of bodily integrity, personhood, equality and respect for diversity14 that portrays sexuality in an affirmative way.


  • The provision for youth friendly services, to enable young people especially young women and girls to enjoy the full range of sexual and reproductive health services. This includes counseling, information, education, contraception services, prenatal care, safe delivery and post natal care, safe abortion services, including prevention and management of consequences of abortion treatment of reproductive tract infection, STDs, HIV/AIDS related services, voluntary counseling and testing, access to ART, and other sexual reproductive health condition among others services.


1 (As being reflected by the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report for the year 2012 , an increasing trend of rising fundamentalism-religious and negative effect of economic capitalism.). World Economic Forum. Insight Report of Global Risks 2012 7th Edition: An Initiatives of the Risk Response Network. Geneva, 2012. (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalRisks_Report_2012.pdf Downloaded on 2nd February 2012)


2 Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. World Population Prospects 2010 revision. UN DESA: 2010.


3IPPF. IPPF Framework for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).IPPF. London: 2010.


4Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Young People and HIV factsheet. GYCA. New York: 2007



5 UNESCO. International Technical Guidence on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers, and health educator. UNESCO. 2009


6 UNESCO. International Technical Guidence on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers, and health educator. UNESCO. 2009


7 ARROW. ARROW for Change: Young and Vulnerable—The reality of unsafe abortion among adolescent and young women. Vol.13 No.3.ARROW. 2006.


8 ARROW. ARROW for Change: HIV/AIDS and SRHR—How was Funding Fuelled the Divide. Vol 12 No.1.ARROW. 2006


9 Ohana, Yael. Mapping of donors active in international youth sector.OSI youth Initiatives (revised edition). New York: 2009, 2010.

(http://www.soros.org/initiatives/youth/articles_publications/publications/mapping-of-donors-20100322/mapping-of-donors- 20100322.pdf).


10 Horn, Jessica. Young Feminist Fund background paper and global research on young people network. AWID. 2009.


11 The WHRAP-SEA initiative is part of a wider strategy of ARROW that aims to create international partnerships for advocacy across the Asia Pacific region. Initially implemented in the South Asian subregion, ARROW’s WHRAP modality now reaches out to over 247780 marginalized women and girls, through organisations across 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region. The critical contribution of a regional partnership platform is the capacity to create an advocacy entity that is by its collective nature, larger than any one in-country or regional partner alone.


12 Sexuality education is defined as education about all matters related to sexuality and its expression. In addition to basic education about reproductive processes, puberty and sexual behavior, information on contraception, protection for sexually transmitted infections, sexuality education also includes issues such as relationships, attitudes towards sexuality, sexual roles, gender relations, social pressures to be sexually active, and information about SRH services, including training in communication and decision-making skills.


13 Thanenthiran, S; Racherla, S. (2009). Chapter 3: Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights. In Reclaiming & Redefining Rights – ICPD+15: Status of Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights in Asia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW).


14 The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW).(2007). ARROWs for Change Why Affirm Sexuality 13(2). . Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: ARROW. Retrieved April 20,2011, from ARROW Web site: http://www.arrow.org.my/publications/AFC/v13n2.pdf








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