PETRI Advocacy Training took part in Sofia from 24-26th May and gathered 18 youth leaders across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region. During the 3 days of Training, young people had the opportunity to learn more about advocacy tools, discuss the challenges they are facing while advocating for youth issues, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education and meaningful youth participation in local and global development processes. 

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The training is an important moment for youth advocates who are involved in the Phase II of the Regional “Youth Voice” Campaign, launched with the support of UNFPA Regional and Country Offices from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The campaign aims to ensure that young people are in the center of the future development agenda, through mobilizing young people from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to bring their voice and advocate for their priorities related to the ongoing discussion around the Post-2015 agenda and to support them to reach out to the decision makers in their country and to contribute to the debates that will shape the country’s position vis-à-vis the youth components of the Post-2015 development agenda.

 It is not really easy for most youth to build successful advocacy campaigns without specific skills, especially when you do not know your stakeholders, do not have your network and you have no any idea to whom you need to address regarding your issues. Also, many people think that advocacy is something negative and aggressive; however it aims to bring peaceful changes within the community or region. Successful advocacy campaigns are built on partnership and understanding from both sides (youth – adults, community – decision makers, youth – politicians etc.)

Advocacy is an important dialogue and ability to not only address the issue, but also suggest and set up solutions together with the key stakeholders and decision- makers. In many cases knowledge of the current situation, based on research and data, self-confidence and good communication skills play a primary role in addressing the issue.

Here are some basic steps to start your advocacy campaign:

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Mary Jobava, youth advocate from Georgia: “The training for youth voices and priorities gave me a chance to improve my capacity in advocacy related to Post-2015 Agenda and ICPD beyond 2014. I especially liked the fact that during the training we had a chance to share our working experience, to talk about the challenges, in the field of SRHR and discuss the effective advocacy campaign skills. As a follow up of the training, I had a chance to share my acquired knowledge with the members of the YAP (Youth Advisory Panel)”

     Sargis, Ghazarian 17 y.o, volunteer from Armenia:
“Before participating in that training I knew about youth issues in my country but I didn’t have the keys of solving the problems. It was really useful and important training in my advocacy experience, because now I have the keys, now I know how to implement the actions for improving the situation in my country regarding youth issues. After training I am motivated and ready to contribute my skills into the positive changes in my society”.

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Pic.1 Youth advocates addressing their messages to parliamentarians during the Pre-conference meeting (May, 26,  Sofia, Bulgaria)

As an important result of the Training, young advocates addressed youth challenges and priorities, based on the consultations with 7,500 young people (that took place in the framework of the Regional “Youth Voice” Campaign Phase I) during a meeting with Members of the Parliament from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, aiming to explore possible ways of working together to advance the youth agenda in the region.

Youth representatives also participated in the Regional Conference “Promoting Health and Rights, Reducing Inequalities towards better Sexual and Reproductive Health Outcomes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”, which took place right after the training, from 27-29th May. Their perspectives contributed to the meeting’s outcome – the Sofia Declaration, that can be found on the official UNFPA EECA web-site  It was a unique opportunity for youth delegates to be the part of drafting committee, to meet face to face decision makers and parliamentarians from their countries, build the space for dialogue, for their future activities within Regional “Youth Voice” Campaign – Phase II.

Among the issues addressed by youth, access to comprehensive sexual education in schools and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services was often mentioned. Comprehensive sexual education as a part of health education helps to prevent teen pregnancies, HIV/STIs, homophobic attitude, gender discrimination and gives opportunity to adolescents and youth to better understand their bodies and themselves.  It is crucial to sustainable development of the global community to provide access to sexual and reproductive health education and services and give opportunity to young people to meaningfully take part in the decision – making processes.

The graph below shows the specter of youth priorities, based on national consultations in 17 countries during the Regional “Youth Voice” Campaign, launched in October 2014 and supported by 80 youth led and youth serving organizations. According to it, Quality of education, Meaningful youth participation, Comprehensive Sexual Education and Equal opportunities take leading positions as they are still big unsolved issues in countries across the EECA region.

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In conclusion, I want to underline the importance of investing in young people in order to build sustainable present and future of humanity.

Sevara Khamidova,

PETRI Sofia Fellow

* Originally published at in June 2015

PETRI Sofia is is one of the members of the Regional Youth Leadership Group that is engaged in the overall design and implementation of the “Youth Voice” Regional Campaign