Anna Rebeka Szczegielniak
I’ve been working in the field of SRHR for almost a decade already, gaining knowledge and experience through an active membership in different youth-led/youth-focused organizations such as GYCA (Regional Focal Point for Eastern Europe & Central Asia), YCSRR, and IFMSA; starting from small local peer-education projects, growing up to conduct international campaigns on CSE, youth-friendly services, HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual rights. One of my biggest achievement is a “Streetcar called desire”, project funded by MTV Staying Alive Foundation since 2010.
As I can’t imagine being a genuine youth advocate without a strong grassroots connection, I was always trying to find balance between high-level engagements and my local projects that give me the most satisfaction.
There was no one single moment leading me to where I’m now- public health researcher, SRHR advocate and justice seeker, as I like to think about myself. Every small step I’ve undertaken was a lesson I must have learnt to understand the complexity of the issue; every person I’ve met during my long journey from a cheerful high school student volunteering in local NGO to high-level advocate, discussing youth SRHR needs freely with governments/UN representatives was an inspiration.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my own work in the SRHR field was the ability to translate community needs to the specific language used by decision-makers. We say in Poland “traduttore traditore” (meaning “translator, traitor”) to stress how hard is sometimes to stay true with the original text and avoid unintended misinterpretation when you’re only passing someone’s words. How can we find a solution and make sure that the voice of the community goes up loudly and clearly?
As the right-wing conservative trend in Central/Eastern Europe is getting stronger, the SRHR challenges are more and more visible in the whole region. Lack of awareness and access to information about reproductive health (lack of formal or informal information on contraception, abortion, pregnancy, birth and postpartum, especially among the youth), religious influence on the education and health services; omission of sexual rights… and this is only a tip of the iceberg!
I strongly believe that the community should lead the change, and I’ll work tirelessly to make sure we understand how to hold the government accountable for measuring progress with gender-sensitive, and youth and adolescent specific indicators in order to monitor ALL inequalities across intersectional identities. I hope to see my country being more inclusive of disadvantaged groups and more comprehensive by including SRR as a main point in the agenda.