Members of young key populations groups take part in a Zero Discrimination Day campaign in Angola, March 2020. Photo: Adriana Cosme.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with leading Southern African civil society organizations (CSOs), released a set of national guidance tools aimed at improving the engagement of young key populations in the policy making process for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights.

Young key populations (YKPs)– including men who have sex with men, transgender persons, people who use drugs, sex workers and prisoners who are under 24 years of age – continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. Worldwide, key populations and their partners make up more than half of all new HIV infections.

Throughout the countries of Southern Africa, social, cultural and religious norms are a barrier to young people accessing much-needed SRH services.

“Inclusive policies on sexual and reproductive health are crucial for an effective response to access HIV and SRH services,” said Amitrajit Saha, Team Leader, HIV, Health and Development Team for Africa, UNDP. “Too often, however, the needs and views of young key populations are omitted in the formulation process for major policies, laws and programmes. These national guidance tools aim to bridge the gap by equipping marginalized and vulnerable groups with the information and guidance they need to become a part of the policy processes at both national and international forums.”

To ensure meaningful participation and engagement of young key populations in policy making processes, UNDP, through the Linking Policy to Programming regional project, led the development of the set of Civil Society Engagement Scans on Health Policy for Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Scans seek to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations working on HIV and SRH and rights to plan and effectively engage with the range of institutions involved in legal and policy reform. Engagement of YKP CSOs in policy dialogues also provides important opportunities to strengthen existing mutually beneficial partnerships with government and other relevant key actors in the formulation, adoption and implementation of appropriate action for KP programming.

“We need a more inclusive process, where our voices can be heard and our needs incorporated,” said Carlos Fernandes Director of IRIS a YKP Organization in Angola. “These are decisions that heavily affect our lives, and our health. We can’t be left out any longer, no policy decision should be made without us.”

For each country, the Scans provide a background on the legal framework, including national laws, and the international and regional human rights treaties that have been ratified. They also outline the relevant national institutions and processes for legal and policy reform, and identify potential pathways to change, such as key potential influencers in the country.

In addition, they provide strategies for addressing gaps in the legal and policy environment, revealed in previously developed assessments produced by several countries with technical assistance from UNDP.   

Young key populations trained on the roll-out of the tools have found them to be useful and user friendly.

“This is a tool we can use for advocacy at the grassroots level within smaller advocacy circles,” said Leeroy Gumbo, from the YKP advocacy working group in Zimbabwe. “It’s a good step-by-step reference that lays out practical ways for engaging policy makers and duty bearers concerning our policy goals.”

“We have been advocating for a master plan on drugs in Zimbabwe, however the involvement of students and youth has been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were at risk of losing an opportunity to participate in the harmonization of drug policies,” said Monalisa Magoche,  also from the YKP advocacy working group in Zimbabwe. “With the help of the engagement scan we were able to better organize ourselves and write to policy makers in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice, resulting in deliberate consultations with students and youth.”

The Scans are intended to be ‘living documents’ with regular updates in the future as national processes evolve over time.

 

Download the toolkits:

Angola (UNDP, ANASO, ÍRIS): Portuguese

Madagascar (UNDP, ASSOFRAMA, AMSHeR): English

Mozambique (UNDP, UNIDOS, LAMBDA, ARISO, UNGAGODOLI, REJUSIDA): Portuguese

Zambia (UNDP, TransBantu): English

Zimbabwe (UNDP, GALZ): English

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