REACHING OUT TO YOUTH
More than one-quarter of the people alive today are under the age of 15. It is the largest generation of youth in history, and they are about to enter their reproductive years. They must be equipped with the information and tools they need to make their own choices and take charge of their futures.
Access to contraception is especially critical for adolescent girls, who are at high risk for health complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Yet girls are typically the least empowered group in society, with limited say over their own reproductive health. To reach these vulnerable young people with lifesaving information and access to contraception, programs must be designed with their unique needs and circumstances in mind.
Young people have the right to know about their own bodies so they can decide their own futures. How will that happen unless they have systematic access to the information, in school and afterwards? Countries and the international community must pick up the challenge they accepted in Cairo—to ensure not only that all children are educated, but that they are educated about their sexual and reproductive health, and how to protect it.
Dr. Nafis Sadik
Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General
In Pakistan, the Rahnuma-Family Planning Association of Pakistan (Rahnuma-FPAP) has begun hosting tea parties where girls can talk about reproductive health with their peers, often for the first time. Most girls in Pakistan are raised to believe they should never discuss these topics with others, so the tea parties are organized to provide an informal and safe space where girls can ask questions and talk about their concerns. The parties have been very successful, with one-quarter of the girls who attend going on to use reproductive health services from Rahnuma-FPAP.
In Kenya, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW) is bringing information about reproductive health and rights to young adolescents aged 10 to 14 years. Young adolescents are at especially high risk for illness and death from pregnancy-related complications, HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections. Unintended pregnancy is often the main reason girls in this age group leave school. The Young Adolescents Project is a three-year partnership with Bayer Health to bring reproductive health education to boys and girls at nine primary schools in Kilifi County, a coastal region in Kenya.
In Mozambique, the mCenas! project uses text messages to educate young people (15 to 24 years old) about contraception. Implemented by Pathfinder with funding from USAID, the program features role-model stories, short informational messages and an interactive menu of frequently asked questions. Users who request follow-up information are referred to a government-run hotline, with operators trained to answer questions about contraception, HIV and other reproductive health issues.
In Zambia, the Hewlett Foundation is funding a human-centered design project to increase youth engagement with reproductive health services. The project is a collaboration between IDEO.org and Marie Stopes International Zambia to design new program offerings and communications that speak to the needs of young people. The innovative designs are geared toward Zambian teen culture and are thoroughly grounded in field research and iterative prototyping.