Empowering the present and future through meaningful and inclusive youth engagement

Previously published on Hivos

To ensure adequate sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care and services for all, it is crucial that healthcare workers address the needs of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics. The Initiative for Gender Equality and Sexual Reproductive Health (IGE-SRH) in Nigeria, a partner in our Free to be Me program, has been at the forefront of this effort. Hivos spoke to Grace Akpan Isong, executive director of IGE-SRH, who spoke proudly about the toolkit for promoting inclusive SRH services they developed with support from the program.

Meaningful and inclusive youth engagement

 “The LGBTIQ+ community is incredibly diverse, with a wide range of identities and experiences. There are people who face multiple layers of discrimination and marginalization, such as LGBTIQ+ persons who have disabilities, are sex workers, or who use drugs. So it’s essential for SRH services to be holistic and inclusive. IGE-SRH advocates for this through meaningful and inclusive youth engagement. This means recognizing and addressing these intersections and ensuring that all voices, especially those of young people, are heard and valued when discussing our way forward as a movement, in legislation, and in service provision. To make this more hands-on, IGE-SRH developed a toolkit for organizations and individuals working to promote inclusive SRH services,” Grace told us.

What does the toolkit tell us about the specific obstacles and needs of LGBTIQ+ youth in Nigeria?

Laws in Nigeria pose significant barriers to the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of LGBTIQ+ individuals. For example, the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) criminalizes same-sex relationships and support for LGBTIQ+ organizations. This leads to increased discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBTIQ+ individuals. Furthermore, the lack of legal recognition of transgender and intersex individuals often results in denying them much-needed healthcare services and protection from abuse. (Toolkit, page 6)

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) services

Bisexual women experience higher rates of IPV than lesbian and heterosexual women. It’s crucial that SRHR programming include services that address IPV, such as crisis support, counselling, safe spaces, and legal assistance. (Toolkit, page 11)

Together, we can create a world free from discrimination

“Meaningful and inclusive youth engagement and participation are crucial for the success of any program that addresses the needs of the LGBTIQ+ community. This is simply because young people are a significant part of our community. As a youth-led organization, IGE-SRH also ensures that the needs of young LGBTIQ+ individuals are met within the Free to be Me community of action (COA) in Nigeria. Because together, we can create a world where young sexual minorities and gender non-conforming people are free from discrimination, persecution, and have equal opportunities in life. For young queer people today, and for those in the future,” Grace concluded.