Dumi Gatsha is a GFAN Speaker, UHC 2030 steering committee alternate member and founder of Success Capital Organisation, a sub-sub recipient of the Global Fund providing community health and justice referral services, whilst working in the nexus of human rights and sustainable development at grassroots, regional and global levels.
For International Youth Day, we asked Dumi what they thought of this year’s theme, “Green Skills For Youth: Towards A Sustainable World”.
International Youth Day heralds a point of deep reflection after a tumultuous year that has seen many African countries regress in the protection and promotion of human rights. The human rights-based approach to the HIV response has been a critical enabler in improving health outcomes, eliminating human rights barriers and strengthening social participation. Many young people today have benefited from science-related advancements across the health spectrum. Whether its in prevention of mother-to-child transmission, commodity availability or even simply, quality and care in service experiences. Also, science related advancements achieved in climate adaptation and mitigation. Young people have been end users and beneficiaries of science, human rights and a lot of the advocacy work carried out by activists to improve lives.
This year’s theme of “Green Skills For Youth: Towards A Sustainable World” marks a critical point for health and climate justice. The World Health Organisation has reported on the impact of climate change on health: compromising food security, mental health, clean air, drinking water, infrastructure, and patterns of infection. Young people have consistently been raising alarm on climate inequities, whilst the health sector has had narrow avenues for youth-led advocacy. To some extent, the latter has often focused on the more technical or scientific expertise, leaving user and community expertise behind. The human rights-based approach to HIV has created avenues for more meaningful participation of youth, with risks of co-opting and weaponizing youth experiences. Climate justice has been a similar playing field. My organization, Success Capital, has noted these experiences whilst navigating these two different fields/sectors.
This context is important for acknowledging the need to ensure grassroots communities are included in policy making, accountability and social participation mechanisms. Providing community health referral services in a remote village provides the insight, first hand, of the realities of our people. People with disabilities, LGBTI, adolescent girls, indigenous groups and others left behind that endure inequities. These inequities do not discriminate or prioritise – they are universal in aggravating vulnerabilities and compromising health and wellbeing. More importantly, they can lead to other vulnerabilities that can impact livelihoods; such as migration, mental health, working conditions and learning. Youth activism is never identified as an actual skill, despite encompassing various capabilities including working with others, communicating complex issues and advocating for social determinants in health and climate to be addressed.
The solutions to complex health challenges and inequities need to be just as universal in impact. This requires of us to adopt more intersectional, holistic and comprehensive solutions that can meet the needs of our communities. These solutions lie with those most impacted. For example, a community health volunteer based in the Okavango district might not have completed high school or gainful employment because of limited NGO funding and high national unemployment conditions; however, they are aware that a shift in harvest season can compromise health and wellbeing. Severe heat can lead to a drought season, and impact nutrition levels, maternal and mental health – possibly leading to compromised pregnancy and even intimate partner violence. The same volunteer would have to endure stigma and discrimination with an increase in anti-LGBT sentiments because of how they might be perceived in society. Thus, even those who help provide human-centred care can be left behind.
This should serve as a reminder that civil society and many other areas of public participation have young people. Young people with insights, skills and expertise that can address inequities, injustices and indiscriminate points of service delivery. Harnessing this demographic dividend should be a priority for safeguarding our future.