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Youth representative from India campaigns for human rights

A UN taskforce looking into population and development has highlighted how the health of young women and girls is often compromised by a lack of human rights.

The UN taskforce on population has been set up to inform decisions for a new development framework after 2015 and will put forward recommendations for the promotion of sexual and reproductive human rights. According to the delegates of this taskforce, there is still much work to do in order to reaffirm values which were laid out nearly 20 years ago in Cairo. At this time, 179 governments committed to a programme of action which placed the human rights of women at the centre of development.

But according to the UN group discussing this issue, many nations have an “unfinished agenda” when it comes to ensuring sexual and reproductive rights are backed up by law. This means that women and young girls in many countries still face a grim situation. Worldwide, one in three girls in developing countries are forced into marriage and around half of all sexual assaults occur against girls under the age of 16.

One youth representative travelled from India to speak to the UN delegates on this taskforce. Ishita Chaudhry set up the YP Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation in India which supports programmes and campaigns which advance young people’s human rights and influence policies on areas of gender, sexuality and health education. Launched in 2002, the YP Foundation has worked with around 5,000 young people to set up more than 200 projects which reach out to adolescents and those up to 28 years of age.

At the meeting of the UN taskforce, the Guardian reports how Ms Chaudhry highlighted that “young people’s voices often get lost” in discussions on population growth and development. She noted how topics concerning sex and sex education were not as “controversial” among young people as they were with governments and said young people simply wanted to be able to claim their human rights. These rights include women and girls being able to access sexual and reproductive health services and receiving protection against violence. Ms Chaudhry also spoke about the importance of comprehensive education as a tool for empowerment.

The co-chair of the UN taskforce is Joaquim Chissano, a former president of Mozambique. He spoke about the link between national development and the provision of sexual and reproductive services, commenting that upholding these rights for women offered “solutions to many of today’s global problems.”

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