With this annual report, we take you on a journey to show you what CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality (CHOICE) is about, what impact we have made in 2013 and what plans we have for the years to come to improve young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). We are very proud of our programmatic accomplishments and our steep curve of professionalization over the years, and are eager to continue our growth in the near future. No youth, no change!
We look back at a crucial strategic year in the development of CHOICE, during which we have laid a solid basis for the future. The year 2013 marked our ‘Sweet 16’ anniversary, allowing us to reflect upon what has been, and mold innovative and bold action plans for what will be.
I am proud we have managed to increase our financial flexibility against the backdrop of decreasing support for international development cooperation from governments and the general public. This enables CHOICE to continue to improve our work, in a world where human rights violations remain a day-to-day reality for young people around the globe. The year 2013 confronted the world with a series of poignant events showing how our SRHR are ruthlessly denied; in countries such as Russia and Uganda, national legislation criminalized and denounced our sexual diversity. In India and Pakistan young women continue to be victims of sexual violence. We cannot let this happen. We should join forces to move away from stigma and discrimination, towards tolerance and acceptance. The commitment of youth to act globally is crucial. CHOICE youth advocates are more determined than ever to secure and foster youth leadership and improve young people’s SRHR.
In 2013, our Youth Leadership Program enabled youth-led organizations in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Indonesia and Europe to increase their capacity to improve young people’s SRHR globally. Through the program, young Malawians were able to join forces with traditional and religious leaders to counter early and forced marriages and allow young girls to get an education instead. In Kenya, youth brought issues of sex and sexuality to the public domain, discussing them openly on national radio. Our International Advocacy Program added to these local and national level achievements, supporting these same activists to voice out their realities in international decision-making processes, shaping the new international development framework.
In 2014, CHOICE and its partner organizations will accelerate efforts and impact to ensure young people around the globe can exercise their SRHR freely. In addition to strengthening our existing advocacy and capacity building initiatives, we will strengthen our connector role, bringing youth from around the globe together to foster youth-led initiatives. We will increase our efforts to work towards true equal partnerships wherein joint ambitions set the tone and joint resource mobilization follows as a result. Lastly, we will realize the trajectories of change initiated within CHOICE, increasing efficiency in the way we operate as an organization, to achieve our identified ambitions.
CHOICE has strengthened its core to accelerate impact in 2014. We are ready! Are you?
CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality
CHOICE is a youth-led organization working in the field of young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) globally. Find out what our ideals are, and what our team looks like.
CHOICE is run by an enthusiastic and ambitious team of young professionals, all aged between 16 and 29 years old. Our youth advocates dedicate their time, energy and expertise to CHOICE on a voluntary basis, supported by a growing team of office staff, general board, supervisory board and advisory board.
Almost half of today’s global population is younger than 25 years old. Many of these young people are not able to buy a condom or get information about safe sex, walk hand in hand with their lover down the street, discuss their sexual orientation, or visit a clinic with personal questions. CHOICE wants to change this. We want every young person around the globe to be confident and informed, so they can make personal decisions regarding these issues, without fearing stigma or discrimination.
In many countries in the world today, issues concerning young people’s sex and sexuality are not openly discussed. They are surrounded by myths and misconceptions, regarded as taboo topics, and are increasingly punishable by law. Young people are often groping in the dark about many issues and reject their feelings, as they have been told these are sinful. As a result, high rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies and child marriages are enormous challenges that many young people face.
Young people are naturally sexually active, but we often do not have the legal right to freely decide on and express our sexuality and/or sexual preferences. Neither do we have access to adequate information and health services. Young people all over the world are in dire need of the possibility to make our own choices, supported by comprehensive and evidence-based information, access to contraceptives and safe abortion care, and youth-friendly services where we are treated with respect and confidentiality.
The current situation related to young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), as they are called, is dire:
• Unprotected sex is the second largest contributor to health risks in terms of the burden of disease among young people. As a consequence, each year, there are at least 100 million cases of sexually transmitted infections among young people, as well as more than 2.5 million unsafe abortions recorded for adolescents.
– Resolution A64/25 World Health Assembly, Youth and Health Risks, 28 April 2011
• Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest rates of STIs.
– State of World Population, UNFPA, 2013
• Only 34% of young people has accurate and comprehensive knowledge of SRHR, and most young people have only limited access to quality SRHR education programs.
UNAIDS, Securing the future today, 2011
• Every day, 20.000 girls below the age of 18 give birth in developing countries. 70.000 adolescent deaths occur annually because of complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
– State of World Population, UNFPA, 2013
• Today, one in nine girls in developing countries is forced into marriage before age 15.
– State of World Population, UNFPA, 2013
• Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI) people and same-sex activities and relationships are penalized with the death penalty in five countries, as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia. In 71 countries they are penalized with imprisonment.
– ILGA LGBTQI Rights Map 2013
Clearly, the current situation is unacceptable. It prevents young people from contributing optimally to society, which has seriously harmful effects on our countries’ development.
The day-to-day reality of young people in relation to their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is not sufficiently reflected in policies and programs, from local to international levels. They are oftentimes far from effective, not targeting those issues that young people are mostly confronted with. As a result, a lot of time and energy is wasted and young people’s SRHR is not optimally invested in. The solution? Meaningful youth participation!
When decisions are to be made, or policies and programs are developed concerning young people, we have the fundamental right to co-decide on these matters. No one understands the issues and needs of young people better than young people.
We are exploring and discovering our sexuality, but we are too seldom actively involved in policy and decision-making processes in this domain. To ensure meaningful youth participation, our involvement during the development, implementation and evaluation stages of policies, programs and laws is of great importance.
CHOICE supports young people to advocate for their rights on all levels: from local projects to global politics. We are convinced that when the young people are heard more loudly and clearly, programs and policies can be implemented more effectively, as they would then more accurately and directly reflect the actual needs of young people. Our battle for more and increasingly meaningful youth participation is therefore essential.
CHOICE actively supports and promotes the SRHR of young people worldwide by enabling them to co-decide on issues affecting their lives. We take on three main strategies to ensure SRHR policies and programs adequately reflect young people’s realities, improving the day-to-day lives of youth globally. CHOICE builds youth leadership, supports youth-led advocacy and strengthens connections within the global SRHR movement, facilitating interregional and intergenerational exchange.
The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) situation of young people needs to improve. The reality of young people is insufficiently taken into account in SRHR policies and programs on local, national, regional and international level. As a consequence, SRHR policies and programs lack efficiency and effectiveness, preventing young people to live up to their full potential.
CHOICE conducts two highly interlinked programs to implement our main strategies. Local realities of young people need to be connected to local, national, regional, and international SRHR policies and programs and vice versa.
Within the International Advocacy Program, CHOICE contributes to the establishment and strengthening of SRHR policies on the international level, in close collaboration with countless likeminded SRHR advocates around the globe. International agreements have extremely important implications for the day-to-day reality of young people worldwide.
Through our Youth Leadership Program we promote and actively support capacity and competence building of youth-led organizations that work towards realizing young people’s SRHR. Each youth leadership trajectory includes trainings, technical assistance and grants for program implementation, catered to the specific needs of the separate organizations. Encouraging networking, intergenerational and interregional exchange is crucial.
As a result of our interlinked efforts, young people are increasingly able to inform international decision-making on SRHR from their own experiences. International SRHR agreements are more effective as they are linked to realities of young people. On a country level, these agreements can in turn be used in support of regional/national/local advocacy efforts for SRHR issues, holding governments accountable. This in turn will improve the SRHR reality of young people.
We are very proud to be able to conduct our programs as part of larger strategic alliances, within the Unite for Body Rights (UFBR) program of the SRHR Alliance and the Access, Services and Knowledge (ASK) program of the Youth Empowerment Alliance. Through these programs, we closely collaborate with RutgersWPF, Simavi, AMREF Flying Doctors, dance4life, STOP AIDS NOW! and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Our alliance efforts greatly increase our joint impact. CHOICE will continue developing such valuable partnerships in the future.
The CHOICE team is very proud of our programmatic achievements realized in 2013. Equal partnership and mutual exchange are core values in our advocacy and youth leadership work. We may not be multinationals, but we do make important changes,
big and small.
CHOICE supports young people worldwide to co-decide on issues that impact their lives. In 2013, young people globally took charge to improve their SRHR from local to international levels. For example, CHOICE advocates shared their views on the new development agenda with world leaders; Ethiopian young people called on their government for youth-friendly health services; and Malawian youth supported the fight against child marriages.
Throughout 2013, our joint international advocacy activities have focused on monitoring of – and participating in – the ICPD Beyond 2014 and post-2015 processes, with the strategic aim of securing the SRHR of young people in the renegotiation of these agendas.
M: For me, that would be the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW). After a difficult process at the same conference a year earlier, we could not even be sure there would be an agreement this year at all. But together with an amazing group of women’s and youth rights activists we put a lot of pressure on government delegations and we managed to get strong commitments to eliminate violence against young women and girls.
S: My personal highlight is the way youth participated at the Regional ICPD Meeting in Geneva. 30 young people, all from different countries in the region, wrote a call to action on young people’s SRHR. I gave a personal oral statement on behalf of CHOICE in front of European leaders and advocates, adding to the strong youth voice already present.
M: In 2013, we increased our involvement in the process towards the post-2015 development agenda. The effort to create a new global development framework means entering into a very big process in which we will discuss for days on end for all 193 United Nations member states to get to a final agreement on how we will improve the world. This is not easy! We will continue to work hard and to use every opportunity to make our voice heard in these new spaces.
S: This year, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) had migration as a theme. Contrary to previous CPDs, we could not count on the usual support from SRHR-supportive countries, as most of them have rather strict migration policies. In the end, governments were able to reach consensus, but did not commit to the rights of migrants to access sexual health services, as we would have liked to see.
M: There is something like a CHOICE touch in the way we work. On the one hand, we’re all learning, not afraid to ask questions. And on the other hand, we facilitate growth of the young advocates around us. When that works out, the circle of our work is complete.
S: We have a powerful construction that we call the ‘take-two principle’. This means that CHOICE attends meetings with a team of one experienced and one less experienced advocate. This allows us to coach each other and maintain our internal capacity.
M:We will take all the progressive policy language that has been agreed to with us into the following years. These documents are helpful tools to pave the way to more progressive development discourses.
S: The upcoming two years will be key moments in shaping the agenda of SRHR-action worldwide. With all the developments we’ve been making in 2013, CHOICE is ready to go all-in to ensure that all young people can enjoy their sexual rights!
Through the Youth Leadership Program, CHOICE supports youth-led organizations globally towards becoming sustainable advocacy forces for young people’s SRHR in their context. Our program is not based on a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead we look at the needs, strengths and weaknesses of our partner organizations and at what we can offer, and jointly develop a tailored plan to build capacity most effectively.
CHOICE partners with youth-led organizations with diverse levels in terms of capacity –ranging from starting youth groups with a lot of learning potential to established youth-led organizations that we can support in the implementation of successful advocacy campaigns. Supporting CHOICE’s youth advocates in the Netherlands to build skills and knowledge in the field of advocacy and SRHR is also a crucial element of the program. Through our work in the Youth Empowerment and SRHR Alliances, we have been able to increase our programmatic reach and impact, and to take a leading role in stimulating meaningful youth participation in the Alliance programs. In 2014, CHOICE started a new partnership within the Youth Leadership Program, with the Indian youth-led NGO The YP Foundation. The partnership will center around collaboration and exchange between CHOICE and TYPF as two like-minded youth-led organizations, and joint advocacy efforts.
Find out more about the young people that we work with, in the Netherlands as well as with our youth-led partner organizations around the world!
“EVERY FRIDAY I CHOOSE TO TAKE LIFE SKILLS CLASSES AT MY HIGH SCHOOL SMKN31 IN JAKARTA. THESE CLASSES SUPPORT ME IN MY PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.”
High school student, 10-12 grade, Indonesia
Idealistic young activists who work hard to make a change in their country run CHOICE’s youth-led partner organizations. CHOICE supports them to implement the programs and activities that they find important, meaningful, and fitting for their contexts. Some of their achvements from 2013 are highlighted below: no youth no change!
Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (YECE) in Malawi set up a successful community-driven youth-led intervention to end early and forced marriages in the Dedza district. In Traditional Authority (T/A) Kamenyagwaza, YECE worked together with community members, traditional leaders and religious leaders to create and enforce by-laws against early and forced marriages.
“We the traditional leaders were forcing girls who happened to be pregnant to go into marriages even if they were less than eighteen years old. We had no idea of these girls’ rights,” Group Village Head Chinyamula.
The by-laws established depict that any girl below 18 years of age should not be married. Those who violate the bylaws are fined by the Chief, and counseled by local youth. In 2013 8 girls in T/A Kamenyagwaza were referred back to school after dropping due to early marriages.
One of partner organization Aliansi Remaja Independen’s (ARI) local branches is located in Pati, a district in Central Java. In 2013, ARI Pati’s advocacy activities focused among others on Nahdlatul Ulama, a traditional Sunni Islam group, which functions as an independent organization funding among others schools and hospitals in the area. ARI advocated with Nahdlatul Ulama to include comprehensive sexuality education in the curricula of the schools supported by the organization. As a result of ARI’s advocacy efforts with Nahdlatul Ulama in Pati, the area’s religious leaders now support HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the area, and encourage sexuality education in Islamic Madrasa schools in the district.
In 2013, 25 CHOICE advocates were trained to become confident, knowledgeable and inspiring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) youth experts. More than anything, the fact that 25 young people are committed to make the foundation work makes us a truly unique team. Driven by their common goals, they have worked hours and hours to support the growth of CHOICE and its partner organizations.In 2013, advocates facilitated five training weeks to partners, attended nine international advocacy events, wrote 49 articles on SRHR and participated in 26 decision-making meetings at CHOICE.
The year 2013 proved crucial strategically, as we identified the need to strengthen our organizational core in order to accelerate impact of our programs.
In 2013 we took the time to reflect upon our ambitions, values and potential, and organizational weaknesses and threats, to determine the road ahead and to substantially improve the way we work.
Throughout the year, we organized a series of strategic meetings with our team and supported by consultants from PwC and The Beuk to set a solid basis from which to accelerate impact in 2014 and beyond. Having clarified our ambitions, and after initiating two thorough trajectories of improvement in relation to organizational efficiency and structure, we will use 2014 to realize the plans we have rolled out.
When do we define our programs as a success? Should we focus geographically or expand? How can we best support youth advocates to develop their talents? What role can they take on in an organization with more external commitments than ever? What knowledge and expertise gaps do we observe in our team? How do we anticipate on fundraising opportunities? Where do we want to be in 2018?
‘The most wonderful part of our work is the fact that WE decide where we go. WE set our ambitions, no one else. To stand still is not an option to achieve our goals. Change is necessary. We will do it together and take the time to ensure CHOICE stays true to its DNA. It is OURS.’
Laura Lasance, Executive Director
With thorough planning and clearly identified shared ambitions and goals, we are able to think ahead of tomorrow, allowing us to take the necessary steps in between in a timely manner to achieve them.
Over the last years, CHOICE has gone through a crucial development phase: we grew fast, implementing new programs and expanding our team. In this changing environment we reflected on our ambitions, values and potential, setting clear strategies and goals for the future.
We envision CHOICE now and in the future as a professional, constantly developing organization that enables youth actors from around the world to establish connections between the local, national and international level in order to improve the situation of SRHR and youth participation worldwide. We will actively seek collaboration with professionals from different backgrounds to form strategic alliances.
In 2013, the CHOICE team developed a long-term strategy for the period 2014-2018, listing our ambitions and goals for the coming years. To initiate the envisioned growth and quality improvement, increased financial and professional capacity is indispensable. CHOICE will make structural fundraising investments from 2014 onwards.
Our ambitions for 2014-2018 are captured in the roles we take on as an organization: CHOICE as an advocate, a capacity builder and a connector.
CHOICE = advocate
As an advocate, CHOICE contributes to the establishment and strengthening of SRHR policies on the international level as a key youth player. We aim to strengthen our role as key youth player – an accountable and professional youth-led organization – in this particular niche, ensuring sustainability and high-level performance in our advocacy team.
CHOICE = capacity builder
As a capacity builder of youth leadership, CHOICE strengthens sustainable youth-led organizations around the world, as well as young people’s individual advocacy and training skills and knowledge in different programs and projects.
CHOICE = connector
As a connector, CHOICE strengthens the global youth movement on SRHR, facilitating interregional and intergenerational exchange, accelerating impact. CHOICE will increasingly promote the formation of partnerships and networks among youth-led organizations operating at different levels.
Without our resources, CHOICE would not be able to support and promote young people to take leadership and improve their day-to-day realities. We thank all our donors and supporters for their continued support, enabling us to realize our work. Check out how we are doing!
Income growth: The sky is the limit
In 2013, CHOICE received subsidies from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UFBR and ASK programs). In addition, we were supported by the European Commission, several foundations and individual benefactors. CHOICE was also increasingly able to work with a variety of professionals providing support and services to us through in-kind donations, totaling EUR 8.000.
As part of the substantial efforts put in our organizational development, the CHOICE team worked to strengthen its fundraising strategy, in support of its ambitions towards 2018. Diversification of funds and growth is required to continue our work.
Our funding supports our goals!
The large majority of our financial resources is used to realize our programs and projects, as well as our organizational development process. 81,4% of our total expenditures is directly allocated to our goal, improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of young people around the globe.
The continuity reserve of CHOICE enables the foundation to continue meeting its obligations in times of reduced income, to employees and in relation to other organizational costs. As of December 31, 2013, the continuity reserve of CHOICE totals EUR 92.787.
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