The Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Dr Algassimu Jah on Friday launched the Salone Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (SalYAN) at the British Council Hall in Freetown.
The UNFPA Country Representative Barnabas Yisa pointed out that, “the demography of this country show that young people make up percentage (55%) of the population, adding that young people’s voices, views, empowerment and participation are critical for national development.
To young people, he noted that, “this is your network and your opportunity to come together and discuss your needs, to choose your priorities and to build your agenda”.
He stressed the need for youth participation and leadership which he said is critical for national development, noting that young people have valuable contributions to make and hence they should be involved. The UNFPA Representative further stressed that; youths must be involved in the development and execution of plans, policies, and programmes.
Making his key note address, Dr Jah said that the launching of the network was in line with this government’s initiative of empowering and restoring the dignity of youths.
He added that,” we as a government is now determined to consult the youth in development drive”, stating that this government will focus on the empowerment of youths.
Barnabas Yisa maintained that “as UNFPA, we are committed to promoting youth partnership and leadership – to providing young people the space to freely express themselves and to have their views considered, appreciated, respected and acted on”.
The mission of the Network which aims at addressing issues relating to the population and development, promoting adolescents and young people’s reproductive health and fighting against the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, promoting advocacy and resources mobilization in order to improve the quality of life of young people in Sierra Leone.
The Minister said that the mission is appropriate as its deals with the health and empowerment of youth.
In his statement, SalYAN Coordinator Shekou Ansumana Nuni said that, the network is a coalition of several youth groups and youth serving organizations working in the area of population and development specifically but not limited to prevention of HIV/AIDS and Gender based violence, promotion of children, youth and women empowerment, employment, health, education, attitudinal change, religious and policy development.
President of Children’s Forum Network (CFN) Suliaman Musa said that, the network was formed as an affiliate of the African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AFriYAN) in December 2005.
He emphasized that young people need to be engaged in a coherent, energetic and effective way that would enhance the development of both individual and society.