Since September 2016, Sanne Thijssen is the new Dutch SRHR Youth Ambassador. Currently finishing her Masters in Global Health, she is also raising the voice of youth, to ensure better access to SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) information and services. She shares with us her first months as Ambassador, her missions and her priorities for this year.
When it comes to planning, implementing or working for and with the youth generation, it is not rare to see that the first interested parties – the young – are absent from the discussion table.
However, youth do not only have the right to participate, their active participation also contributes to bettering their situation and stimulating their development.
Dutch SRHR Youth Ambassador
In the Netherlands, many policymakers are convinced of the importance of meaningful youth participation and therefore created the position of “Dutch SRHR Youth Ambassador”. Since September 2016, Sanne Thijssen, a 22-year-old student currently studying Global Health at university is fulfilling this assignment for a one year period.
As the second SRHR Youth Ambassador following her predecessor Lotte Dijkstra, Sanne is already on track: “During the interim period, Lotte, was very helpful. She had a very good insight in addressing issues and already opened a lot of doors for me by going to places where, we, the young had not been going so far. Thanks to her work, now, ‘adults’ take me more seriously and accept my presence as well as my ideas”.
“One in three women worldwide will experience some form of physical or sexual abuse during her life. This is unacceptable to me.”
Six months have already passed and so far, Sanne has been excited by the position and the opportunities that have arisen: “I am getting used to the function, and meeting other organizations helped me understand the mechanisms and strategies they are deploying to improve SRHR in the specific context they are working in. My trips to fragile contexts were very insightful. I saw their reality and was able to speak with young people outside of the Dutch context.”
Indeed, last December, she went to Benin (see picture above), one of the countries where Jeune S3, a youth SRHR program, is currently working. The passion and candidness of the young people were refreshing but also struck her: “I visited the biggest market in Benin, if not in West Africa, called Dantokpa in Cotonou. There, I visited an “SRHR safe space” for young people. I talked to girls of 9 to 11 years old and was amazed by the violence they faced in the market. People not only attacked them physically or verbally but also stole their merchandise. This is rough violence for such young girls. And statistics are alarming: one in three women worldwide will experience some form of physical or sexual abuse during her life. This is unacceptable to me.”
“I have a lot of admiration for the kind of work that the partners of the Alliance are doing.”
Having been in her position for one year, Sanne is already half way to completing her mandate and would like to focus more on the specific topics: “Now on, I really want to start pulling on the focus areas I feel passionate about: young friendly services and SRHR in humanitarian settings. Jeune S3 is implemented in such fragile contexts and I got to know how challenging it is to work there. I have a lot of admiration for the kind of work that the partners of the Alliance are doing because not everybody wants to work on this aspect. This is why Jeune S3 has a lot of potential and I will obviously follow it!”
And after her mandate? Sanne would like to become an advocate in the health sector: “This experience as an Ambassador opened my eyes and I see myself in a lot of things related to health policy, advocacy and lobbying.” Having met, Jeune S3 and Sanne are currently discussing ways to join efforts on raising the voice of the youth for better SRHR services and information in fragile contexts.