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Key solutions for development: Youth empowerment and family planning

Key solutions for development: Youth empowerment and family planning

EDD17 - Replay - Key solutions for development: Youth empowerment and family planning

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 09:00 to 10:30

Key points

  • Countries entering a period of demographic transition need to invest in young people now to reap demographic dividend.
  • Without overcoming cultural resistance to family planning, there will be a demographic liability not a demographic dividend.
  • This issue is reflected in the paradigm shift in the European Consensus on Development towards treating African countries as equal partners, focusing on empowering women and youth and pushing for involvement of the private sector.
  • Governments need to be more accountable and more responsive to young people. Media, civil society, and the private sector need to reach out to mothers and young girls.


The film shown to introduce the session ended with the words, ‘The time to act is now.’ After paying tribute to the commitment to women’s health of the recently deceased Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, whom she was replacing on the panel, Sietske Steneker, Director of UNFPA’s Brussels Office, said the enormous diversity of age structures among countries signalled that the demographic transition is well underway. It was not automatic that countries would reap the demographic dividend of lower mortality and fertility leading to more people of working age in a household and boosting growth.

With 1 million more young people joining to both the African and Asian job markets each month, countries urgently need to invest in health, education especially for young girls, and base their decisions on both current and future populations to ensure inclusive development. ‘The demographic dividend has to be seen against the backdrop of demographic liability,’ said Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Jackson Chekweko, Executive Director for Reproductive Health in Uganda, where

75 % of the population are under 30, stressed that the advantage of an immense labour force is undermined if family sizes are not manageable. Recalling the high number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies among her friends as she grew up in Ghana, EDD Young Leader Esenam Amuzu stressed the importance of access to information about reproductive information during the sexually active teenage period. It helps young girls plan to stay in school longer, have fewer children, space them out and learn when to take them to hospital.

‘Help for young people in transitioning to a productive and happy adulthood needs to be across political, economic and social domains,’ added Mattias Lundberg, Head of the Global Partnership for Youth and Development and Focal Point for Youth Issues at the World Bank Group. ‘The World Bank database is full of programmes including word empowerment, but the number that can be shown to be truly impactful is very small. High-level language only goes so far and it is difficult to obtain evidence. We need to be down on the ground.’ Beyond pushing for more entrepreneurship, he called for initiatives to take full advantage of the dynamism of the private sector. ‘ODA should be strategic in catalysing domestic resources to bring the private sector on board,’ Solberg added.

Tanzania’s Mahiga tried to counter the belief that having more children is an economic insurance policy, and instead encourage a cultural shift to make family planning acceptable. ‘Infrastructure must reach out to this cross-section of population in both rural and urban areas. We need health insurance at all levels and partnership with the private sector in a proactive approach,’ she said. She recommended three key approaches for engaging young people: 

  • Recognise them. Be open-minded. Let them define their own narrative and who they are.
  • Let them participate in decision-making and wealth generation (through loans). Make them partners to avoid marginalisation.
  • Long-term investment gives them hope. Give young people skills and employment opportunities to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of terrorists.

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo pointed to the progress of the She Decides movement. ‘There is a greater openness about discussing sexual education and reproductive rights even among religious leaders and we need to be adaptable if they put the emphasis on women’s health rather than human rights,’ he said. 


EDD Young Leader Esenam Amuzu noted that although these problems have existed before, there are new possibilities for mutually beneficial dialogue. She stressed that there is a key role for civil society organisations, and for media such as radio to offer solutions for girls facing social stigma.

Organised by

    Slavea Chankova
    Data journalist
    The Economist
    Ambassador Augustine Mahiga
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Sietske Steneker
    UNFPA Brussels Office
    Mattias Lundberg
    Head of the Global Partnership for Youth and Development and Focal Point for Youth Issues
    World Bank Group
    Esenam Amuzu
    EDD Young Leader, Ghana
    Jackson Chekweko
    Executive Director
    Reproductive Health Uganda
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