Romaisa takes over three hours and more than two buses to commute from her village in Minya to the university where she is studying for her master’s degree. Besides enduring the long ride, Romaisa also has to ward off her family’s scrutiny for continuing her education.
Romaisa is the first girl in the family to complete a bachelor’s degree. Her parents and uncles would rather have her stay at home. They tell her it will all be for nothing, since a woman’s place is ultimately in her house with her husband.
But the master’s student believes in the important of her degree and is adamant on getting it. For her research, she is focusing social norms on family size and boy preference in her hometown of Minya.
Quality education is the foundation for development and plays a pivotal role in achieving progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We must therefore not exclude reproductive health education from the curricula and ensure young people’s right to it. Lack of accurate information available for young people about their reproductive health, makes them vulnerable to poverty, unwanted and early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and other challenges.
With 62 percent of Egypt’s population below the age of 29, it is important to empower these young people with knowledge to make informed choices about their own bodies, their own lives and the world they live in.
This year, as we celebrate International Youth Day, UNFPA is launching a new youth strategy for adolescents and youth titled “My Body, My Life, My World!” The strategy places young people’s needs and aspirations at the heart of efforts achieve the SDGs and the commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) here in Cairo 25 years ago.
To set the wheels in motion, we at UNFPA are bringing together young people aged 23-27 for a Model ICPD this October, to commemorate the landmark conference’s 25th anniversary, in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Young people from across the world will simulate the 1994 international Conference, presenting their own ideas to achieving the ICPD agenda.
A young man and woman from each of Egypt’s governorate, as well as a young man and woman from each country, will push to the forefront their right and their roles in achieving developmental goals, specifically with relation to health and education, at the conference.
UNFPA is also leading the UN Youth taskforce UN Egypt which is hosting a competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and AIESEC, to support youth digital solutions to transform education in Egypt. This competition offers a space to enable youth participation and leadership.
This is one of many ways we are working to empower young people in order to realize their potential. A potential that will only be tapped through inclusive and quality education for all.
We must work with the government to equip youth with skills to achieve their dreams, promote health, by giving them access to reproductive health information, educationand services, and encourage young people’s leadership and participation in decisions that affect them.
We must ensure that young people like Romaisaare armed with knowledge about their bodies, so they can make informed choices about their lives, and ultimately their world.
* Dr. Aleksandar Sasha Bodiroza is the UNFPA Representative and is responsible for leading the entire team and driving all elements of UNFPA operations in Egypt.