Cynthia Okerfelt and Lea Jones
What actions are you taking to promote and protect the health and rights of women and young people worldwide?
Lea’s experience spans from lobbying for reproductive health rights in California and serving as an abortion advocate to working in post-conflict areas providing HIV counseling and testing. This background has reinforced to her just how important it is that reproductive health programming address structural barriers to women’s sexual health – specifically, barriers such as unsupportive intimate partners or family members and women’s low self-worth stemming from gender inequality.
Working for the past two years with at-risk Southern Sudanese young men, Cynthia is very familiar with the issues facing this community. Harnessing her experience with at-risk American youth and education, she co-founded Youth LEAD to respond to the unmet psychosocial needs of these young men. The organization has been recognized by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for developing creative approaches to address the needs of young urban refugees. Following the success with the men’s program, Cynthia is launching the new women’s program and drawing on Lea’s reproductive health experience in the field to ensure it is effective.
Together, Lea and Cynthia are excited to work with Sudanese refugee women in addressing sexual and reproductive health.
What is your vision of lasting change for yourself and for the world's young people?
Our vision for lasting change lies with complete access to education and social services for the world’s young people. Young people should have the choice of an education and accessing their basic human rights and this can only be obtained through government systems that support this mission.
If you could tell world leaders one thing, what would it be?
Marginalizing young people by placing institutional barriers that impede, or simply deny, access to education and social services will never be a method to obtaining a healthy and prosperous future.