All posts by maryhiuhu

Let’s talk about sexual education: East African Conference on Urban Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Courtesy of Rebecca Bell

Conference: Urban Innovation in SRHR; Nairobi, UN-Complex, February 15 &16, 2017

What are current urban innovations in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)? Is SRHR education a critical part in addressing urban challenges faced by young people?

A recent conference held at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi Kenya, brought together cross-disciplinary experts ranging from applied ethics to nursing, counselling to medicine, and private sector to local government in order to address these crucial questions on SRHR. Using the Kenyan context as backdrop, with additional consideratiConference Plenary Speakersons from India, Somalia, Uganda and Sweden, the goal of the conference was to identify the types of projects being implemented in our own backyards and how we can improve the SRHR situation in our communities.

The conference started off with an introduction from representatives at UN-Habitat, UNFPA Somalia, the Head of Development Cooperation for Somalia, Swedish Embassy, and a professor of applied ethics from Linkoping University. This panel set the stage for participants to look at SRHR from a variety of perspectives, from the grassroots level to national policy, and beyond to the ethical foundations of SRHR programming.

Representatives from Linkoping University, the University of Boras, and University West demonstrated the prototype of their online open-access course, Haki Sasa, roughly translated to “Justice Now” in Swahili. The presenters fielded questions from the audience with the stated intention of eventually improving health outcomes in communities where youth complete this curriculum.  The presenters verified that the course would be context specific so as to account for different ideas about sexuality and morality within individual communities.

On Wednesday afternoon, two additional panels were conducted. The first included representatives from UNFPA’s Private Sector Health Partnership including Safaricom, Huawei, MSD, Philips and the UNFPA team who brought them together. These private sector executives discussed the role they play in SRHR and the partnerships that can help each sector work to their strengths.

The second panel included representatives of UN-Habitat’s youth and gender units, and their partners from Narotum Sekhasaria Foundation (NSF), India. Statistics on SRHR were expressed for global, Kenyan and Indian contexts, thereby setting the stage for the next day’s breakout sessions. The role of youth and the successes of specific projects were also considered.

Wednesday finished off with an engrossing drama and dance performance by Wale Wale Kenya. The performers communicated the daily difficulties of dealing with family, friends and employers, changes at puberty, and the challenges faced in menstrual health and hygiene maintenance.Wale Wale 2

Thursday morning, 16th February, participants and facilitators were reunited again for short opening remarks before splitting off into three groups for breakout sessions. In the first section, three topics were presented: a workshop on the Haki Sasa course, introduced during the plenary session on Wednesday; SRHR innovations for young people; and SRHR in slums and informal settlements.

The following section held the latter two workshops again, but the first workshop changed to a module on menstrual hygiene management and reusable sanitary pads. These small breakout sessions gave the participants an opportunity to network, discuss their thoughts and get creative together. Small groups discussed solutions to SRHR challenges they face in their own communities; improved upon existing online programmes for SRHR; and gave advice on how to refine reusable sanitary pad templates.

In the final plenary session, rapporteurs from each of the breakout sessions summarized the discussions from each section in order to synthesize the take-away lessons. In this way, all participants were able to share in the experiences of each breakout session despite having only participated in two of the available six sessions.

The two-day conference came to an end with representatives of the facilitating partners giving their final remarks, discussing the successes of collaborative thinking and networking opportunities, and challenging the participants to find ways to continue the conversations and partnerships formed throughout the conference. Overall, the conference was a great success, sparking new ideas and collaborations that will undoubtedly improve SRHR in Kenya and beyond.

Conference Group Photo

UN-Habitat Training: Nigerian Youth Going Green

Courtesy of Akolade Aderibigbe, UN-Habitat

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria, conducted hands-on training in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; green entrepreneurship and enterprise development for 125 selected youths drawn from 26 States across the Nigeria in Abuja from 12th  to 23rd December 2016.

The hands-on training on energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; green entrepreneurship and enterprise development training programme was organized by the Regional Office for Africa; Youth Unit and the Energy Unit of UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigeria President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGS). The training which was held in Abuja from 11th – 23rd December 2016   was targeted at Nigerian unemployed youths. First batch of 125 (One Hundred and Twenty-Five) youth participants were selected from across the 26 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to benefit from the programme. The training aimed at empowering the trained youths to start income generating enterprises in the renewable energy sector; become active proponents of energy efficiency and renewable energy approaches with a clear understanding of the issues/application around climate change; act as positive agents in their communities and bring about behavioral change among their peers and across their communities.

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Her Excellency SSAP-SDGS Adejoke Orelope Adefulire and other dignitaries during the Hands-on Training on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies Closing Ceremony.

The Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung in his opening remarks thanked the SSAP and UN Habitat for organizing the training programme. The Minister stated that the importance of the energy industry in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. He also stated that the present administration is committed towards the development and empowerment of Nigerian youths. He assured the youth that the Federal Government of Nigeria would

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Youth Participants working on Household Solar Panels.continue to take the interest of young people into consideration in the formulation and implementation of its policies and programmes. He advised the youth not to give room for dis-unity among them or allow themselves to be manipulated or used as criminal elements by politicians. He also charged them to work hard to succeed and use the opportunity of the training to establish themselves and build solid relationships with one another. The Minister informed that the government is in the process of putting in place a trust fund for youths to address issues of funding. The Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Sustainable Development Goals, Mrs. Adejoke Adefulire, said the programme was developed by the Presidency in partnership with the UN-Habitat to empower youths through the provision of training in energy efficiency and renewable technologies. She said, “The main objective of this programme is to involve Nigerian youths in the green economy project, contributing to climate change mitigation, because majority of our youths do not have stable economic opportunities, as they are unemployed, discouraged or vulnerably employed.

Adefulire observed that the training was not to replace the university or college degrees of

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Improved Cook Stoves by Youth Participants during the Hands-on Training on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies.

the trainees but would enhance their capacities. “By your decision to be part of this exercise, you will move away from poverty, crime, drug abuse, militancy and terrorism to a sustainable platform, as this programme will address goal 1 of the SDG, which is no poverty, goal 7 on renewable energy, and goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities,” she said.

The Habitat Programme Manager for Nigeria, Mr. Kabir Yari who represented the Director for Regional Office for Africa, said subsequent training would capture a greater number of trainees, adding that the exercise would go a long way in reducing unemployment in Nigeria.

He said, “Our collaboration with Nigeria on this project is to provide technical inputs in terms of facilitators, technical personnel and other related things that will ensure a successful training. As you know, the SDGs is a 2030 agenda which intends to improve the lives of all citizens and leaving no one behind.” Tapping into its new thinking on producing items that can be locally sourced for the consumption of Nigeria’s population, the federal government is to partner with the United Nation Habitat to train some Nigerian youths on clean energy for home use. The partnership for empowerment captures capacity building in energy technologies for production of clean stoves and lantern that will serve the energy needs of rural poor and other areas where renewable energy will complement power needs.

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Gasifier Stove Hands-on Training on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies.

Explaining the rationale for the partnership for the training, Vincent Kitio, Chief Urban Energy Unit, says the youth are being trained in a blend of entrepreneurship and technologies to developed skill sets in production of renewable energy as alternatives to replace kerosene stoves and lantern which has proven dangerous in some cases.

At the end of the course, participants were able to;

  • Build solar lanterns
  • Set up briquette production to substitute charcoal and firewood
  • Build improved cook stoves
  • Assemble and install gasifier stoves
  • Built and Assemble Household Solar Panels.

The City Is Ours!

Who owns the city? This question was a subject of passionate debates at the Habitat III conference in Quito. The answer was straightforward: it belongs to its citizens. In this context, the design of public spaces is one of the biggest challenges. This has not always worked well. The Habitat III conference and the New Urban Agenda create opportunities for cities’ authorities and civil societies to learn with and from each other.

An opinion by Jonas Freist-Held from Habitat III, Quito October 2016

In Berlin, you do not have to search long to find best and worst practices how to design public space. On the one hand, the “Gleisdreieckpark” – a newly designed park in the heart of Berlin – with its inclusive and sustainable design sets new standards. Or the “Tempelhofer Feld”, the massive area of the former city airport that has become the city’s biggest recreational space, stands exemplary for effective citizen participation. On the other hand, you can find the “Alexanderplatz”, a grey and busy concrete desert in the heart of Berlin that becomes more terrible with every new building constructed.14859603_10211112837115690_1381135185_o

During the Habitat III conference on sustainable urban development in Quito, the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, rightly stressed the role model his city can be to other cities around the world. Nevertheless, he did good to state that Berlin can – and must – as well learn and benefit from best-practices and experiences of other cities from all around the world.

The City as Public Good

The discussion about public spaces is closely linked to a movement that has become stronger and more influential within the last years: The Right to the City. Who owns the city? Are cities public good? – Questions passionately debated in Quito. For Sergio Roldán Gutiérrez the answer is easy. He is the President of the Urban Planning group of the Colombian city Medellín.

“Before we design a city we have to empower its citizens. A city cannot be shaped without the active participation of its people.” Just a decade ago his city was a stronghold of Colombian drug traffic, a crime haven. With targeted and intelligent policies, today, the town 14881244_10211112836835683_415405407_owith more than four million inhabitants has become a role model for innovative and sustainable urban development. Creative mobility solutions such as cable cars have connected districts suffering from poverty and crime to the city center. After that education centers were built and public spaces created. “If we fail to actively involve citizens, they might not experience the city as they should and ultimately even destroy what we created. The citizens have priority! Then comes the city. That’s our main objective, that’s our mission.”, the urban planner is convinced. The success proves him right.

Fight Against Urban Exclusion

But what if cities are not blessed with such foresighted decision-makers? Worldwide, and especially in Latin America, gated communities are growing. People are segregated by social status; public places are declared as exclusive. Increasingly, poor people are driven out to the cities’ outskirts. Hence, empathy for the lives of others decreases, social and economic inequalities increase. This is a frightening development. Public spaces are meeting places for people from all social classes, from any background and of any age. They are key to sustainable development in a vivid urban environment.14859410_10211112837155691_669084167_o

In Quito, it was the youth repeatedly stressing the importance of public spaces. It was one of their central causes at Habitat III, a conference that was dominated by the positive vibes and creative ideas of young people from all around the world. In discussions, such as during a spontaneous pop-up meeting organized by the Youth Advisory Board of UN-HABITAT, youth from Ecuador, Peru or Chile complained about the lack of channels to engage in their city’s development – an element Roldán Gutiérrez considers crucial in making a city work for its people.

Taking control!

That such channels are still missing in many places around the world does not leave young people silent or inactive. Habitat III has shown how initiatives and projects have been created at grassroots levels. Often, small-scale ideas and movements that incorporate sustainable and innovative solutions have the potential to create bigger change in the long run. And nothing is more sustainable than a strong and growing youth movement.

Examples of creative and innovative urban solutions are as diverse as cities around the world themselves. In Barcelona (Spain), streets are reorganized to create new public spaces and decrease traffic; the Colombian capital Bogotá supports street art and graffiti allowing citizens to design their city, One-Stop Youth Centers in Mogadishu (Somalia) create safe spaces with education services for young people, in Freiburg (Germany) the Vauban, a entirely green and sustainable city district was created from scratch and in Montreal (Canada) the city has introduced special measures to improve the safety of girls and women in public transportation. The list of projects and initiatives could be continued endlessly.

Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda provide a global framework to exchange these best-practice examples and to create new ideas and share them in an international network of cities. The years to come will show if the agenda will be successful. But one thing in Quito has become clear: young people are willing and capable of acting to design inclusive cities. Their creative potential is immense.

This article was first published in German at: http://menschliche-entwicklung-staerken.dgvn.de/meldung/die-stadt-gehoert-uns/

Urbanism in Mexico: Young Ideas for the Cities of Tomorrow

Since 2016 Badi Zárate Khalili has worked for the Metropolitan Institute of Planning in Guadalajara, the second biggest city of Mexico. With only 23 years old, he is the youngest city planner in his team and responsible for the coordination of public participation and communication. In addition, Badi has represented the Latin American youth in the Youth Advisory of Board of UN-Habitat since 2015.

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Badi Zarate Khalili; Latin America UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board Representative at Habitat III, in Quito.

*Coordinating public participation and communication

*Urban Planning

It should not be a surprise that young people are getting a more active role in the design of public policies and decision making in the cities, it is just a natural step out of the enormous efforts made by previous generations. I had the pleasure of  volunteering in social action projects since I was 15 years old, which helped me understand the need of involvement of young people in making a difference and a love for service to the community started growing  in me since then and which is still my main motivation up to now. I began developing different projects as an activist for the right of the city and in 2015, I was invited to join the Metropolitan Planning team of Guadalajara.

Urban development in México has been a very firm and straight field dominated by a very exclusive group of people, mostly men. New generations have reached a new understanding of the importance of the cities and the critical time that we are facing. Yes, they have been pushing for a more inclusive agenda by promoting increased public participation in their communities. This has led to México having  innovative varieties of methodologies to bring the voice of the citizens to the urban development plans.

Although the course of youth has given enormous steps, there’s a lot left to do. The administrative system is still dominated by older men, and the inclusion that has currently been undertook, doesn’t reflect young voices and ideas in the final decision making. Young people’s ideas not only need to be listened to, but also taken and implemented with the same weight as other generation’s.

Programs that take into consideration the communities ideas and proposals have demonstrated their effectiveness on implementation. We have developed participatory planned Metropolitan development plans, major public consultations of the Planning policies, workshops on cities and growth for Children, workshops for young professionals about Metropolitan Planning and the building process of public policy, among others.

As mentioned, getting youth involved in city planning in México is an on going battle. But after proving their effectiveness and quality of work, this is slowly changing with young people being involved in the development and planning of cities.For example , majority of the people planning the future of Guadalajara, are under 30 years old.

Although the goals in the New Urban Agenda (NUA) have a long way to implementation, we are very content seeing that most of the work we do is based on the principles of the NUA; so we’ll keep on working in the same path, trying to be even more coherent by the objectives set by HABITAT III and to make our city a resilient, safe and inclusive place for all.

Key words: Inclusion, Governance, Local economy prosperity.

Courtesy of  Jonas-Freist Held.