3 Questions

Lotte Dijkstra

Lotte Dijkstra (22) is the former Sexual and Reproductive and Health Rights (SRHR) Youth ambassador of the Netherlands. The position she held until September 2016 is part of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Sanne Thijssen will take up the torch as the new SRHR Youth Ambassador, while Lotte will continue her work on SRHR as a member of CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, one of Simavi’s coalition partners in the SRHR Alliance.

1

Why is SRHR for young people so important to you?

“It’s a really personal topic. It’s so close to your personal experiences and feelings, but at the same time, it’s a topic that we don’t talk about much. It’s often taboo, which is especially difficult for young people who start experiencing feelings around their sexuality. Because it’s such a big taboo, they aren’t offered the right tools and aren’t empowered to know how to deal with these feelings. That’s why SRHR is one of the major issues affecting young people: it’s such a key part of your life, during adolescence, and the formative years when you develop into an adult. Neglecting such an important factor can have serious consequences for how a person will eventually turn out to be.”

2

How are SRHR in the Netherlands similar or different from other countries?

“We are lucky to have access to SRHR education in the Netherlands. While there are differences between our culture and other countries, I think there are also a lot of similarities. For example, people here don’t often talk about sex either, and a lot of parents don’t know how to talk about it with their children. Fortunately, schools can take on that role and help with that. But still, some parts of sexuality are still very much a taboo in the Netherlands. There are still some barriers and it can still be an issue if you are non-heterosexual, non-sex gender, or transgender. In my time as Youth Ambassador SRHR, I would liked to have invested more time in outreach in the Netherlands itself. This wasn’t really part of the original job description, but I think it’s really important to link national to international level. I made a little start with this and fortunately Sanne (Thijssen) will expand this work in the upcoming year.”

3

What do you think are the most important issues in improving young people’s SRHR and how can they be addressed?

“One big thing for me is comprehensive sexuality education. I’m a sex educator myself, so it is a topic I have experience with. I think it is one of the key things in empowering young people to take control of their own sexuality. If you have the knowledge about your body and how it works, and if you’ve also learned how to communicate with your peers, your parents or service providers about your needs and desires, I think that will empower you to take control. And of course, that has to be linked with services available to young people and raising awareness of SRHR amongst older generations of SRHR so they will allow and support these changes.”

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Margo Bakker is the Alliance Officer of the Unite for Body Rights Programme (UFBR)/Access, Knowledge and Services Program (ASK). The UFBR programme was started by the SRHR Alliance (Simavi, Rutgers WPF, AMREF Flying Doctors, Dance4Life and CHOICE) in 2011. In 2013, two more NGOs and their partners joined to form the Youth Empowerment Alliance and developed the ASK programme. We talked to Margo at the Young & In Control event.