Each year on the August 12th, the world celebrates the United Nations International Youth Day.Established by the UN General Assembly on December 17th, 1999, the UN Session endorsed the recommendation made by the 1st World Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth (Lisbon 8th – 12th 1998) that 12th of August of every year, be declared the ‘International Youth Day.’
The youth day avails opportunity to State parties to evaluate the various programmes and policies as well as strategic interventions aimed at empowering young p
eople. Specifically, on this day, the issues focused on are not the stock of achievements but rather the solutions to challenges in the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
This encompasses action at all levels in the 15 priority areas of; Education, Employment, Hunger and Poverty, Health, Environment, Drug Abuse, Juvenile delinquency, Leisure time activities, Girls and young women, participation, Globalization, Information & Communication Technology, Youth and Conflict, Intergenerational relationships and HIV/Aids.
Additionally, the day was declared to give the world an opportunity to recognise the potential of youth, to celebrate their achievements and plan for ways to better engage young people to successfully take action for development.It thus presents a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to rall
y together to ensure that young people are included in global, national and local affairs and decision making.
With this year’s theme focusing on the fight against the spread of HIV/Aids, Rwanda’s youth are vital when it comes to playing a key role in the fight against the scourge.
Since youth are the future of tomorrow, commited and determined efforts have to be realized in order to curb the staggering statistics of HIV/Aids among youth worldwide.
Over half of all new infections worldwide are among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Every day, its estimated that 6,000 young people become infected with HIV- implying that more than five youth every minute.
In Rwanda, the fight against the HIV/Aids pandemic requires an adoption approach that emphasizes the collective responsibility of individuals, community groups, different levels of government and other agencies particularly as they call to attention the role of the youth in the fight against and the prevention of the disease.
Through presentations and discussions, Rwandan youth discuss general information on HIV Aids and its relation to culture.
The impact of culture on curbing the disease at both college and individual level makes the youth bear it in mind that they are at a risk of easily acquiring HIV/Aids.
Their vulnerability is made higher by their behavior patterns, modes of socialisation, peer pressure, prevailing concepts of masculinity, alcohol and drug abuse.
Further more, behavioural practices such as “sugar-daddy/mummy” liaisons, sexual experimentation, prostitution, unprotected casual sex, and gender violence and having multiple sexual partners have exacerbated the spread of the pandemic among students.
Through forming strategic youth teams in various communitie, youth have are seeking the support from the government, NGO’s, academic institutions to create meaningful actions against the spread of HIV/Aids.
They are taught to live exemplary life as they share experiences and form lasting solutions that play a key role in the fight against the HIV pandemic. However, due to the stigma associated with the disease, young people need to mobilse practical ways of building confidence and self awareness among the members of HIV related organizations to de-stigmatise society’s perception about the disease.
This allows more youth to get involved and relate to others since they are the ones who are most affected.
It is not a secret that young people have often lacked access to essential information on HIV/Aids. As a result they are ignorant about the underlying factors that contribute to their protection from the virus.
On the other hand this can be well dealt with through the major channel of communication through the media. By holding radio and TV talk shows that discuss the impact of college based HIV awareness organizations and clubs as well as stress the need for more, there will be a greater impact among the college students to alleviate the disease.
More so as Rwandan youth need to take a significant role, in making others more active when it comes to HIV issues. As they impart knowledge on related issues to college students they ensure how essential it is, for student participation in the fight against HIV/Aids.
This is a good opportunity to involve youth in peer education efforts. This will allow students to take charge not only at their schools, but in their communities as well. It also allows students to fully comprehend the impact of HIV on their generation and the steps taken to end this problem.
Through providing a platform for information sharing on HIV and culture among the youth, also the various cultural myths from different regions; equip participants with survival skills at colleges and universities. Eventually networks are created among students from various cultural settings.
Real changes come about when youth are able to identify the issues of primary concern.
Then they are no longer mere spectators but become empowered to develop, implement and manage youth-owned strategies, activities, networks, organisations and campaigns in the fight against AIDS.
HIV is preventable and prevention works. The returns on preventing infections among young people are enormous.
As Rwandan youth, get placed at the centre of the response to HIV they become assets, not liabilities because their voices need to be heard and talents cultivated.
For this reason, the ‘International Youth Day’ every year, is a constant reminder for young people to join hands as they establish information sharing networks to fight against further spread of the Aids scourge.