‘And so the end is near…’ A little less than a year ago we all embarked on the adventure and opportunity of a lifetime, as UNV Interns posted all over the world. I’m sure we have all had our ups and our downs and as my contract draws to a close I have been reflecting on some of my own highlights and achievements that the past 12 months have brought. As a Documentation and Report Writing Officer with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Zimbabwe I have acquired a passion for working on Millennium Development Goal 5 – improving maternal mortality and the thirst for knowledge on the issue. This is something that I will surely take away from this experience and will hopefully continue to work in this area. So it is with great appreciation and fond memories that I recall one of my highlights…
In late November 2012 young people from around the African continent who are leaders, influencers and actors in the field of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and the issue of maternal mortality in their respective countries and beyond came together at a workshop entitled ‘Young People & Social Media Online Campaign for the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA)’, held by the UNFPA Africa Regional Office. Simultaneously, selected young people also participated in and contributed to the workshop from their homes around Africa via the ‘Live Minutes’ on line platform.
UNFPA and the African Union Commission officially launched CARMMA in May 2009 in recognition of the daunting challenge of reducing maternal mortality in African countries by 75 per cent compared to figures for 1990, by 2015, as recommended in Millennium Development Goal 5. Over 287,000 women die each year globally from pregnancy and delivery-related complications, more than half of these deaths occur in Africa. This workshop sought to create a mechanism to engage young people with CARMMA.
I had the pleasure of attending the workshop in South Africa as the Chief Rapporteur. The workshop included sessions on population dynamics, the history of CARMMA, the actions for change that the youth representatives are carrying out in their respective countries, brainstorming and action planning for the social media campaign. The dialogue was interactive and inspirational, best practices and lessons learnt were shared openly, and one of the participants even told her story of her fight for education and overcoming her betrothal to her cousin from the age of 12 years old.
The outcome was a strategy and action plan to seize the opportunity, framework, process and expertise towards utilizing social media in delivering the Youth for CARRMA Campaign to promote and channel youth engagement in the implementation of CARMMA, with the support of the African Union and the UNFPA Africa Regional Office. In the aftermath of the workshop, momentum has been maintained with the working groups springing to action, platforms created, conference calls held, websites tested and content published. The social media campaign goes by the name of #Y4CARRMA and went live on 1 January 2013. To see all the work come together in such a tangible fashion and in such a short time period is a real credit to those involved and demonstrates the characteristics of both young people and social media – the sense of urgency, of impatience for change, and the need for information as it happens.Image

I am pictured here with the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, after a Q&A session with young people as the culmination of the workshop.

This Campaign is an opportunity for young people to contribute in a real way to a reduction in maternal mortality through sharing information and engaging in debate via a medium that is literally growing on a daily basis in Africa. #Y4CARRMA shows the progressive side to UNFPA and the United Nations, moving with the times and responding to current trends in order to make a greater impact – – follow the campaign at http://www.y4carmma.org
To play a role in this is exciting and no matter where I end up after this I will be able to see the great work continuing to unfold via social media. The last 12 months have truly been a unique experience and I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to all my colleagues at the UNFPA and UNV Zimbabwe Country Offices, and huge appreciation of course to Irish Aid for the funding and shortlisting me way back in November 2011. So while the curtain may be closing on this experience I feel that a door is opening and leading to… well I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.

Emma Mulhern

Documentation and Report Writing Officer

United Nations Population Fund

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