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Future Planning: Young People Making Choices

As I wrote nearly two years ago on VITAL, “family planning” seems to be a misnomer for most young people when it comes to reproductive health services.

I’d just talked with a passionate, creative troupe of young Ethiopians during an IntraHealth Beat Making Lab partnership in Addis Ababa, and got to see them and other young people from around the world a few months later during the last International Conference on Family Planning in 2013. They made it clear that they weren’t, in fact, planning families. Instead, they were thinking about finishing school, finances, and, in some cases, taking care of their parents or younger siblings.

Jillian Gedeon was one of them.

"The term ‘future planning’ defines itself,” she says. “It is literally when you try to plan your future. This differs by person but can include educational goals, travel goals, personal goals, and family goals. I think this resonates with young people—including me—more than the term ‘family planning’ because we're simply not at a stage where we're even thinking about a family! Heck, I don't even know how to cook yet. So to even think about having a family is beyond where I am in my career.”

Gedeon’s rap video entry secured a sponsorship to the 2013 conference—as well as a starring role in the Beat Making conference video, Future Planning: Beats & Youth in Ethiopia. She made strong, lasting connections with her fellow youth participants.

Heck, I don't even know how to cook yet. So to even think about having a family is beyond where I am in my career.

“When you come across such a powerful force of motivation you can't help but want to use it towards a good cause,” she says. “In combining our passion towards family planning and our amazing chemistry with one another, we knew  we could accomplish so much more as a unified team; our connection at the conference sparked an energy that helped fuel the creation and growth of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning.”

Gedeon is one of the leaders of this alliance, called IYAFP, which aims to be a voice for young people during policy-making processes on family planning issues at local, national, and international level. IYAFP’s mission is all about enabling youth to participate in and lead initiatives in the realm of family planning and sexual health and championing voluntary family planning services as a human right.

Future Planning Makes Sense

Gedeon says the term “future planning” makes sense.“We are not actively planning families, rather we are planning our futures,” she says. “But at the end of the day, we are all trying to make life choices that work best for us.”

Since coining the term in 2013, I’ve been thrilled to see the idea catching on.David Olson mentioned it in a post on Global TV last year. He pointed out that in order to keep up momentum around youth engagement, especially in sexual health, “we have to make sure our language is attuned to their needs.”

Even the Lancet began taking a closer look at the nomenclature, suggesting we just call it contraceptives for young people.

Sometimes a conference is just a conference. A great opportunity to learn a bit and network a lot.

For many of us, though, ICFP 2013 was much more. The conference, which focused on youth engagement, inspired some of us who might have been feeling a bit jaded, and discouraged, by the lack of global momentum in improving contraceptive access for millions of women. Although we were encouraged by the global commitments organized in 2012 through FP2020, we just didn’t see how the overarching plan to reach 120 million women who lacked access to modern contraceptive services could succeed. But the conference re-inspired us, and helped galvanize new commitments and re-energize a global movement.A

nd for young participants like Jillian, this conference was life changing.

“Being accepted as a youth delegate for the ICFP 2013 was one of the best things to have ever happened to me,” she says. “Meeting like-minded people from all over the world motivated me to continue my studies and research in the area of reproductive health while making me realize that no dream is too big.”

As we honor International Youth Day at IntraHealth International, we are gearing up for the 2015 International Conference on Family Planning, will which be held in less than three months in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. We look forward to seeing Gedeon there, where she’ll be the lead youth facilitator for pre-conference youth sessions.

ICFP 2015 is an opportunity for youth participants, as well as those with many years of experience and expertise, to come together and do some future planning—together.

Follow #ICFP2015 on Twitter for ongoing coverage of family planning and the 2015 International Conference on Family Planning.