Last year, the first annual event of the Ethiopian Youth Health Forum (EYHF) took place virtually due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s edition of the Forum happened in person and took place between September 19–24. The annual event was celebrated under the theme “Innovation for better youth health service” at the Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa. The six-day long event was also live streamed via social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
The Ethiopian Youth Health Forum is a platform through which young people can contribute to the health policy dialogues and programme discussions at country level through their collective ideas, solutions and innovations. The Forum was started by the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners in 2020. Higher government officials joined the Forum through video messages, including the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde. As part of her message, President Zewde stated that “the next great Ethiopia will be built by youths like you who have a bright future.”
The Ministry of Health Dr. Liya Tadesse also affirmed the government’s commitment to engage with young people in policies and strategies that are relevant for them, including the upcoming 2021-2025 National Adolescent and Youth Health Strategy.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Dr. Catherine Sozi stressed that “the United Nations will remain committed to work with young people in Ethiopia, and to transform their ideas into actions.”
Different experts and youths coming from all over Ethiopia participated in the panel discussions, being joined by representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women, as well as from civil society organisations (CSOs). There was also a session in which Ethiopian young leaders were selected, coming from different fields and sharing their visions, aspirations, and thoughts on youth leadership, peace building, innovation, and health. From communication specialists, to poets, footballers, change activists, motivational speakers, and an Olympic gold medalist, many different experts took part in this session. Interesting questions and suggestions from young people were raised, especially their concerns and aspirations for the future.
DSW Ethiopia has been part of this annual event for the second year, supporting the programme and presenting good practices and lessons on Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) at different levels. This year, nine DSW Youth Champions from different projects attended the Adolescent and Youth Health (AYH) week and gave their contribution by talking about youth-related sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues. Two of them, Tekalegn, 18, and Elsabet, 19, presented a mobile application and a video project supported by DSW and focused on the issue of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) during COVID-19. Tekalegn and Elsabet also brought up other issues that need to be taken into consideration, such as the inclusion of youth, accessibility of technology for young people living in rural areas, and the issue of violence against women. Their interventions met the interest of other panelists and participants; representatives of partner organisations working on SRH for youth also brought their experiences and lessons to the table.
DSW’s participation in the Forum saw representatives joining both in person and through live streaming, sharing tips and best practices on SRH at the workplace. In addition, a panel discussion on the topic of youth-friendly services was conducted, which saw the participation of young people joining both physically and virtually. The staff of a project working on youth-friendly services served as panelists of this session, explaining DSW`s efforts to reach vulnerable youths in remote areas, and their work on empowering young people while also trying to make the institutions more youth-friendly.
After six days, the event reached its conclusive phase by underlining key points and ways forward, which included engagement of youths on innovation in the health sector, continuing the fight against COVID-19, and maintaining and expanding health policies focused on youth and adolescents. Dr. Meseret Zelalem from the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia closed this edition of the Forum, acknowledging the contribution of all panelists and thanking all participants during her final remarks.
Cover photo: ethioyouth.org