Being young at Share-Net Netherlands – Linking Research, Policy and Practice

Posted by Victory on December 9, 2021 at 2:59 pm

This piece was written by Gaia Zanaboni, our current intern who supported with the Linking Research, Policy and Practice Conference.

It was in July this year that I learned that I got the position of intern at Share-Net Netherlands. This made me so happy. As a 21 year-old queer woman, who has not even graduated yet, it is not easy to navigate the job market, but especially to find something that resonates with her passion and ambition. The internship summarised everything I was interested in: Meaningful Youth Participation, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and policymaking. I was to help organise the 10th anniversary of the “Linking Research, Policy and Practice” conference. How cool, to organise an event as a young person for young people. 26 young researchers from 12 different countries presented their research on SRHR and gender equality and women’s empowerment.  

At the beginning, I was a bit scared. I guess I was experiencing performance anxiety. It felt like I did not deserve the place I was in, which is something that a lot of young people experience. Or that I was not good at it, and I was messing up too much. My friends and I are always talking about this. It almost seems like young people have to do more work than adults to prove their worth, and when they do, they are not paid fairly, or they do not take up important and official tasks. They are used by someone that has some power over them because of age. I feel lucky myself. I never had this feeling while organising the Conference. I learned how to be of support for Project management as well as how to manage my time better. This was really my first job where nobody made me feel like the “young one” intentionally. Of course, I am still young, and have and want to learn a lot. However, I am deeply grateful that I was able to have this space to be honest about who I am. And I also hope that out there, more and more opportunities like this are going to come up. Young people’s voices matter, and it is time to listen.

It was beautiful to see the young people I had been supporting indirectly for months present their research on topics such as abortion, sex work, LGBTQI+ Health, pregnancy etc. They all had 10 minutes each to present their Bachelor, Master or PhD research, which is not that much. But still, there are so many positive things that follow those 10 minutes. For instance, presentations could inspire people. I was really impressed by a research on preserving fertility for trans individuals, it was a topic that I never thought of, but that is so important for transitioning individuals. Besides, just like me, the young researchers were also given the space to share their knowledge, and this was a great opportunity for everyone. It is the first step of something that can become really beautiful. Beautiful like the Magazine that was realised last year after the Conference. The magazine summarised, in the form of a Zine, the presentations of the students from last year. Not only will the video recordings on the conference soon be shared on the Share-Net International youtube channel, also the magazine is going to be realised again this year by the same Collective, called Fram(m)enti. They are an Italian Queer Collective, mainly composed of young people, that works on graphic design and feminist artistic representation. Their work resonates with me very strongly. I am also originally from Italy, so it feels familiar to work with someone that comes from your same country. I hope this year’s edition is going to reach many people, it deserves to be seen.

After 5 months of internship, I feel I know my way around things more, but I am still struggling with achieving as much as I would like to, which can be too much. As a young person, often you hear: “your generation is going to have to fix climate change and all these problems that we have…”. This is a heavy task though, but subconsciously I think I am still following this sentence. Sometimes I struggle with taking up too much in my life, which influenced my Internship negatively at times. I would like to do everything and help everyone but it is an unachievable goal for any individual. We need to work together. It is not up to the young person to fix these global problems, adults need to get involved now. I study Sustainability Science, and students around me are organising groups to deal with “eco-anxiety” (fear and depression caused by the climate crisis). Eco-anxiety is proven to be experienced mainly by young people, because of this pressure coming from adults. This is not okay. It is actually kind of strange to see these support groups and makes me wonder about Youth and our future. I also feel eco-anxiety and it is not easy to have these dreams and feeling like this is a world dominated by adults. 

This internship for me was a great big step that gave me the tools to work towards my global vision and dream job in the SRHR field. I am deeply happy about everything that I have learned so far. There have been ups and downs, but I really feel I know where I want to go next. I want a future where young people can have these experiences normally. What I have had should not be exceptional, I strongly encourage more organisations to offer paid internship positions for specifically young people.

I especially want to thank Hannah Kabelka, who is my internship supervisor at Share-Net Netherlands. Thank you! I am thankful for your patience when I made mistakes and for all your support.

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