The Youth Advocacy Movement

Background

The Belize Family Life Association(BFLA) is an accredited member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) along with forty-six other countries. BFLA is a not-for-profit organization mandated to provide access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual & reproductive health services, and advocate for changes in policies and legislations affecting adolescents’ access to services necessary for the prevention of teen pregnancy, HIV/STI’s and other situations that can have negative impact on the lives of youth. BFLA is also driven to provide opportunities for personal development and increase awareness on sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS/STIs, and other issues affecting young people in Belize.

Since 1985 BFLA has been one of the foremost leaders in sexual and reproductive health rights awareness and family planning services. In 1988 it began its youth programme opening its doors to any young person between the ages of 12 to 20 years through the Under Twenty Club (UTC). Along with the assistance, guidance and mentorship of the organization, UTC strived and became one of the most dynamic and popular groups in Belize; establishing 4 branches and averaged a minimum of 25 members per branch. In 2003, BFLA, in and effort to expand its investment in youth adopted the regional concept of the Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM); making its network stronger and its reach wider. Today there are four branches of YAM in the country: (1) Belize City, (2) Crooked Tree Village, (3) Dangriga Town, and (4) Orange Walk Town. With “Great Vision…Greater Action!” as its motto, YAM has the momentum, attitude and a new look to face the social ills of today.

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Purpose

The Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) is an innovative approach to addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs. YAMs lead IPPF/WHR-Caribbean youth work by using media, technology, peer education and advocacy to provoke change in young people, Family planning Associations (FPAs), education systems, decision makers and governments.

YAMs conduct activities addressing adolescent SRH needs, including a regional newsletter, regional youth camps, the sharing of yearly work plans, and a penpal network, aiming to share ideas and strategies for working with peers. Locally, YAMs work with schools, in the community, and in the FPA to educate youth on SRH. Through trainings, support groups, recreational activities, radio broadcasts, press releases, and other media events YAMs reach out to the community
YAMs collaborate with local groups such as National Youth Programs/Parliaments, helping to make a national-level impact. YAMs participate in annual meetings of FPAs and boards of directors, and collaborate with parents to increase two-way communication and support between parents and children.

YAMs have a significant impact on adolescent SRH programs of FPAs, and on communities as a whole. Around the Caribbean YAMs have influenced laws in relation to adolescent SRH & rights. YAMs empower young people to take control over their health and speak out on their needs. YAMs strengthen the capacity to provide effective support, information and leadership to youth in SRH. They serve as an effective regional voice to improve the quality of programs in adolescent SRH, to influence decision-makers, and advocate for policies, program and rights.

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