I spent a week in Trinidad at the PANCAP Third Regional Meeting of Youth Leaders on Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV and AIDS. I interacted with other young people with such a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and passions. These all fit together and blended so well into commonalities that the experience proved quite enjoyable.
One concept which stuck with me from the first day and throughout the rest of the week was ‘Collaboration is our Currency’, as presented by Terisa Taylor from Jamaica. This succinctly embodied the progress that we can make with concerted efforts at local, national, and regional levels. Andre Browne from St. Vincent further cemented this for me with a quote from Robin Jones Gunn: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Exploring issues such as the current state of adolescent sexual and reproductive health in the Caribbean and the existing legal frameworks which hamper education campaigns, reaffirmed what we all knew – we need to strengthen partnerships and pool resources to advance our goals. Participants shared some very insightful experiences in their advocacy work, some of which spoke straight to my heart and re-energised my spirit to go back home and help push for more. We spoke of innovative ways to tackle and address social health issues, and we shared personal stories in and out of the meeting room, which helped us learn and appreciate each other.
Most importantly, however, we committed to becoming better organised as youth leaders and advocates for the representation that our fellow youth deserve. We also committed to being the ones to sit with our older adult colleagues currently occupying spaces of power and help them see past the assumptions and prejudices which distort policy-making on sexual health and ultimately, our future within our region.
While we closed off the four-day event, a single mantra repeated itself in our subconsciousness: “Nothing for us, without us.” We were ready to move forward.