Christan, 26, is committed to helping develop young people to become confident advocates for change.
Christan is the executive assistant at the FAMPLAN Lenworth Jacobs Clinic. Her work overlaps with that of the Youth Action Movement (YAM), helping to foster the transitioning and development of youth into meaningful adults.
Harnessing change through young advocates
“FAMPLAN provides the space or capacity for young persons who they engage on a regular basis to grow — whether through outreach, rap sessions, educational sessions. The organization provides them with an opportunity to grow and build their capacity as it relates to advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights amongst their other peers,” she said.
Though she has passed on her youth officer baton, Christan, remains connected to YAM and ensures she leads by example. “When you have young adults, who are part of the organization, who lobby and advocate for the rights of other adults like themselves, then, on the other hand, you are going to have young people like Mario, Candice and Fiona who advocate for persons within their age cohort,” she said.
“Transitioning out of the group and working alongside these young folks, I feel as if I can still share some of the realities they share, have one-on-one conversations with them, help them along their journey and also help myself as well, because social connectiveness is an important part of your mental health. This group is very, very, very dear to me.”
Gaining confidence through volunteering
With regards to its impact on her life, Christan said YAM helped her to become more of an extrovert and shaped her confidence. “I was more of an introvert and now I can get up do a wide presentation and engage other people without feeling like I do not have the capacity or expertise to bring across certain issues,” she said.
However, she says that there is still a lot of sensitivity around sexual and reproductive health and rights. This can sometimes limit the conversations YAM is able to have and at times may generate fear among some of the group members.
Turning members into advocates
“There are certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces. Other challenges they [YAM members] may face are personal reservations. Although we provide them with the skillset, certain persons are still more reserved and are not able to be engaged in certain spaces. Sometimes they just want to stay in the back and issue flyers or something behind the scenes rather than being upfront.”
But as the main aim of the movement is to develop advocates out of members, Christan’s conviction is helping to strengthen Yam's capacity.
“To advocate you must be able to get up, stand up and speak for the persons who we classify as the voiceless or persons who are vulnerable and marginalised. I think that is one of the limitations as well. Going out and doing an HIV test and having counselling is OK, but as it relates to really standing up and advocating, being able to write a piece and send it to Parliament, being able to make certain submissions like editorial pieces. That needs to be strengthened,” says Christan.