This blog post was written by YCSRR member *Evdokia Romanova of Russia. Evdokia attended the EECA Youth Voice Advocacy Training with other youth advocates from the region before taking part in the UNFPA regional conference from May 27-29, 2015 on the topic of advancing sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the region through the post-2015 development agenda.

From May 27–29th I had the opportunity to participate in the regional conference “Promoting Health and Rights, Reducing Inequalities: Towards Better Sexual and Reproductive Health Outcomes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA)”, which was organized by UNFPA and brought together 140 participants from 27 countries in the EECA region, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and young people.

I had the chance to present the outcomes of the training course that was held prior to the conference and give a small speech on the priorities of young people. I discussed the importance of education and meaningful youth participation in sexual and reproductive health and rights decision-making, and also talked about the importance of giving us, young people, the chance to present our messages related to the Post 2015 agenda.

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During the conference there were many presentations on topics such as: maternal health, comprehensive sexual education, contraceptives and migration (with a focus on SRHR). However, no one was speaking about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). I therefore took this as my chance to raise my voice on this topic. When participants at the conference divided into small groups to work together on the conference declaration, I was in the group “Sexual and Reproductive Health for young people”, where I advocated for the importance of acknowledging sexual orientation and gender identity as a crucial right of any young person in society. On the second day, I joined the session “Sexual and Reproductive Health of Key Populations at Higher Risk of HIV” where I advocated for the importance of providing more visibility to the issues of transgender youth, who remain invisible in research and outreach programs despite having the fastest growing rate of HIV infections.

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During the conference the Sofia Declaration of Commitment was adopted and youth advocates fought hard to include youth priorities and identify the main problems facing youth from the EECA region. I successfully pushed to change point #7 in the second part of the declaration to include language on key populations.

Let us hope that this declaration, or at the very least the discussions we had during the conference, contribute to the process of bringing positive change to the lives of young people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

* Evdokia Romanova is a Russian sexual and reproductive health and rights youth advocate, sociologist, trainer and student who believes in the power of peaceful approaches to provoke positive social changes in society. She represented YCSRR in the EECA Youth Voice campaign. Find more information here.

Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights 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