The Family Planning Summit is a convening of the global community on rights based family planning in which new commitments and new solutions are galvanized to move closer to the shared Family Planning 2020 goal of enabling an additional 120 million women and girls to use voluntary modern contraception by 2020. The 2017 summit took place exactly five years since the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, and this was an important moment to learn from what had worked, and to direct efforts to where progress was most urgently needed.
The 2017 London Family Planning Summit was very special to me, not just because I was attending but because I had a role to play – a great one at that! I am a member of the Organization of Africa Youth – Kenya, the organization that saw me set foot in London for the very first time by giving me a chance to attend the summit! As a member of the summit’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG), I was tasked to take charge of the Youth-led Spotlight Session. Spotlight events are officially and formally connected to the summit integrated into the programme of the day and are held in the same venue as the rest of the summit! They focus on the thematic priorities set out in the Family Planning summit’s concept note or other relevant priority areas of work within the wider framing of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The expected number of attendees for the summit was an estimated 2500 people comprising of Senior government officials from different countries, representatives from donor organizations, leads of senior private organizations and members of the Youth Advisory Group, just to mention a few.
Preparations began two months before the actual day of the summit (11th July 2017). Being the lead during the spotlight, I was tasked to come up with a theme (Youth-Led Accountability in the Delivery of the Family Planning 2020 Commitments) and coordinate the session’s activities (of course with loads of support from Caitlin Feurey of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lindsay Menard Freeman of The Torchlight Collective, our very own Michael Asudi from the Organization of Africa Youth-Kenya and the entire YAG). We had several meetings and webinars to prepare us for the summit and beyond, and it was all not in vain.
My first day in London was graced with a remarkable reception at Altitude London, Mill Banks Tower. The room provided a wonderful view of London, and it was such a great welcome. Introductions and inspiration from esteemed people and the greatest lesson from day 1 of the summit was a statement from Robin Gorna of SheDecides: “You don’t always need to ask for permission, you can always apologize”. Day 2 was all about the final preparations for the actual summit. We, (the YAG)were trained on communication and development of (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) asks, and the afternoon was crowned with a roundtable discussion with the Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates herself. The summit was already fulfilling, because I never thought in my wildest of dreams that I would ever sit at a table and address such high profile people ever in my life! Dreams come true, and if you do not believe that then you am a testimony.
Then later in the evening we proceeded to the Memorial Lecture of Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, a selfless advocate for a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth safe and every young person’s potential fulfilled. May God rest his soul in peace.
The actual day of the summit, 11th July 2017 was finally here. The first plenary session began at 8.00 am at the County Hall where governments, the private sector, foundations, multilaterals, and civil society organizations made new, and some built upon and strengthened the commitments they made during the 2012 London summit. There were a total of 14 spotlight sessions on the day of the summit and they began soon after the first plenary. The one I attended that was immediately before mine was mainly about creating a world in which every girl and every woman can decide what to do with her body, with her life and with her future. Then came the Youth-led spotlight. No amount of preparation can actually give anyone a 100% level of confidence to address such a big crowd. I told myself a million times that I could do it, and hard as it was to believe I had to brace myself and give it my best. Not after I had witnessed a dignitary shaking on stage, literally!
I could not let the YAG down; I could not let my organization (The Organization of Africa Youth – Kenya) and my country down. The theme for the session was Youth-led Accountability for the Delivery of the FP2020 Commitments. The Youth Advisory Group’s overall goal was to promote youth led accountability to catalyze action for FP2020 Commitments and other national SRHR and family planning policies, frameworks and strategies. This session would therefore give a platform to lay bare our Youth-led accountability framework. It began and ended well, at least from the many testimonies I had. Time management was great; the panelists were amazing with their content and deep wealth of knowledge. The need to give the youth their rightful space in the delivery of the commitments was well taken in and appreciated. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHlUFROblHw to watch the full proceedings of the day. The ‘Morning After’ meeting followed on the day preceding the summit, during which issues of accountability, youth, method mix, abortion and the barriers to effective Family Planning were discussed with regards to contraception.
The summit was simply amazing! On my flight back to Nairobi Kenya, I could not stop replaying the events that took place in London and the much that was achieved key of which was the announcement of over $2.5 billion in new funding to deliver rights-based family planning with focus on better serving the largest generation of adolescents in history and the hardest-to-reach women and girls.
The satisfaction of great work having been done guaranteed me that I am on the right course as a youth champion! And while the 2017 London Family Planning Summit has concluded, the work continues for safer, healthier and empowered futures for all adolescents, youth, women and girls.
By Pauline B.A Anyona,
Organization of Africa Youth – Kenya.