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Investing in Young People:  Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights and Responsibilities 


The UNFPA Youth Conference


The Caribbean Region is currently experiencing the largest cohort of 15-24 year olds in its history; half of the Caribbean population is under the age of 25. While this generation of young people face many challenges and risks that impact directly on their physical, emotional and mental health and well-being, there are enormous opportunities and benefits that could accrue to the region by investing in young people. This generation will enter into the working world in a context where they out-number the dependent populations thus creating a window of opportunity for a demographic bonus.

The challenge to the region - to Governments, national partners and the development agencies that work with them is to ensure that policies and programmes actively address and are responsive to the needs and rights of young people. Youth participation is an effective way to ensure youth voices in policies and programmes.

It is for this reason that the UNFPA Sub-regional office for the Caribbean established a Youth Advisory Group (YAG) which is a reflection of the organization’s commitment to young people’s empowerment and rights, including their rights to participate in decisions that affect their lives and to express their views and opinions, in accordance with basic human rights principles and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This rights-based approach is fundamental to youth participation in general, and particularly in the context of the YAG.

At the national level, the Jamaica Youth Advisory Group (JYAG) aims to bring a youth perspective on issues affecting young people in order to ensure that their rights and needs are acknowledged and promoted within the UNFPA programme and the wider society.  The group also seeks to strengthen the skills of young people (especially vulnerable and disadvantaged youth) in areas that include leadership, decision-making, communication, problem-solving and advocacy, thereby facilitating their effective participation in national development processes.

As a key element of their work, the JYAG in collaboration with UNFPA is hosting a conference geared towards engaging, empowering and mobilizing young people to advocate for improved access to reproductive health information, education and services in order to enhance their development and well-being.


Sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the centre of UNFPA’s work. The organization aims to ensure that ‘every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every young person is free from HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect”

The Jamaica Youth Advisory Group (JYAG) and the UNFPA believe that investing in the health and education of young people is critical in order to allow them to reach their full potential. More specifically, investments in comprehensive sexuality education that is age appropriate, gender sensitive and life skills-based, as well as youth-friendly services can provide young people with the knowledge, skills and efficacy to make informed decisions about their sexuality and lifestyle.

While Jamaica has made progress in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of our young people, there are still several challenges. According to the 2008 Reproductive Health Survey, the rates of adolescent pregnancy still remain high with approximately 20% of  young women experiencing unintended or unwanted pregnancies and approximately 12% of young women and three times as many young men (35%) reported initiating sexual activity before age 15.  Additionally, based on HIV surveillance data, girls aged 10 to 19 years are 3 times as likely as boys in the same cohort to be HIV infected. This data reinforces the need to strengthen the mechanisms and programmes geared towards addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people in Jamaica.

Evidence has shown that when young people are equipped with accurate and relevant information and access to youth-friendly services, and have developed skills in decision-making, negotiation, communication and critical thinking, they are better able to take advantage of educational and other opportunities that will impact their lifelong well-being, avoid unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, improve their sexual and reproductive health and protect themselves against STIs including HIV.

In that regard, the JYAG will be hosting a conference aimed at profiling the key issues, challenges and opportunities in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of Jamaican youth.  More specifically, the conference is expected to:

  1. Increase the knowledge and awareness of sexual and reproductive health, rights and responsibilities among young people in Jamaica
  2. Sensitize young people to the various policies and frameworks that exist to support and promote the health, education and development of adolescents and youth
  3. Share good practices and interventions that  address the  health and educational needs of  vulnerable young people


The meeting will be executed through a series of presentations organized by thematic panels. The moderators of the panels will provide a space for critical dialogue around the issues at the end of the presentations. The panels will be delivered consecutively under the following themes:

1.       Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health from a Rights Perspective

2.       Frameworks for Action in promoting Sexual  and Reproductive Health and Youth Development

3.       Good practices and opportunities for addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Jamaican Youth

The panels will feature a series of presentations from a diverse group of key technical professionals working on sexual and reproductive health issues in Jamaica, as well as experienced youth advocates.  Presenters will also include representatives from government and programme managers from local and international civil society organizations supporting the response to sexual and reproductive health in Jamaica.

The media will be invited to support advocacy and information sharing around the results of the conference.


The expected 200 delegates for the conference will consist primarily of young people between the ages of 14 and 24 years old, who are drawn from the youth leadership of schools across the country.  The contingent will also include executive members and Youth Leaders/Advocates of the National Youth Council, National Student Councils, National Youth Service, Jamaica Red Cross, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, Jamaica Council for Persons Living with Disabilities and YUTE among others.


The Conference will be held at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in the Humanities Lecture Theatre N1, beginning at 10:00am and ending at 5:00pm with Lunch served at 12:30pm.


The meeting is expected to empower young people to advocate for improved access to reproductive health, information and services in order to enhance their development and well-being. With improved knowledge and information regarding SRH rights and responsibilities, young people are expected to take back these messages to their youth networks and engage in dialogue around the issues.

The JYAG and the UNFPA is willing to provide technical and other support where possible in order to advance the implementation of activities to address sexual and reproductive health in the various parishes.

Click Here for the Meeting Agenda