Youth: often seen but not heard, delegates tell AIDS 2014
Young leaders have expressed feel they are seen but not heard, during the launch of the 2014 Youth Action plan, at the AIDS 2014 Conference.
L'Orangelis Thomas, a youth HIV activist from Puerto Rico and Plenary Speaker for AIDS 2014, said that young people are often locked out of decision making processes, their voices not being heard.
"At the last minute, the decision making happens with doors closed," she said.
Thomas recently attended a World Conference in Sri Lanka, and said although young people were encouraged and supported, decision making processes were occuring at the last minute.
"We were doing a lot of discussion around tables, but the document was made by other people from Government and we didn't have the chance to be there. So sometimes we are doing a lot of things but we are not always validated by the things we are doing," the 26-year-old said.
"Sometimes we are invited to these spaces just to say that 'young people were there', and they say 'hey, this is what young people want' but it's not, as we didn't get the chance to say 'we want this' and 'we want that'."
Himakshi Piplani, the Pre-Conference Co-Chair for Melbourne Youth Force and HIV youth activist from India said although the 2014 Youth Action Plan was created entirely by young people, getting your voice heard was a constant challenge.
"It takes a lot of hard work to find out what the governments actually want. Sometimes you have to try alternative approaches, like going through the UN or through donors, but when none of this works, you just own your own space"
An example used was the HIV Young Leaders Fund, which is run by young people under the age of thirty who make all the funding decisions that go to small, youth lead organisations.
"[The Government] will give you money for your projects, but they wont give you money for your salaries, your office rent, your training so you can build your capacity, to learn the language they want to hear," said Piplani.
"All of these things are huge challenges, but it's difficult for major stakeholders to see that, and it's not just about us at the end of the day; young people's issues are not just young people's issues, we are the future workforce, we are the future politicians, doctors, teachers... and we need time to become that"
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