Youth leaders proclaim: Involve us every step of the way, from planning to inception to evaluation of AYSRH programs
OUAGADOUGOU, May 11, 2017—During the second and final day of the meeting—“Examining progress and planning for further evidence-informed investments in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH)”—youth leaders from the nine Ouagadougou Partnership countries closed the two-day event with calls for greater youth participation in all stages of AYSRH programming and their priorities going forward.
“Recognize that young people are the actors of today, not tomorrow,” said Hadja Idrissa Bah, a youth leader from Guinea.
“We need to strengthen the capacity of youth to strengthen their participation,” said Isidore Djifa Kuessan, a youth leader from Togo.
In addition to strengthening youth involvement in AYSRH programming, recommendations from the young leaders included: making sure contraceptives are free for youth; reaching vulnerable youth populations, especially those who are not in school; conducting outreach activities for youth in local languages; scaling up AYSRH services through health services at schools; and strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration, particularly with the ministry of justice.
The technical meeting, which took place May 10-11 at Sopatel Silmande in Ouagadougou, was hosted by Pathfinder International and its USAID-funded Evidence to Action (E2A) Project, with the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit, and support from USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and MSD/Merck.
The proclamations resulted both from the young leaders’ own experiences with AYSRH programming and advocacy in their countries, and the exercises they took part in during the workshop.
On May 9, the youth leaders participated in a pre-meeting workshop facilitated by the Torchlight Collective where they were prepared to deliberate with country teams composed of senior ministry of health officials and civil society organizations. From May 10-11, they worked with those country teams to examine their Costed Implementation Plans for Family Planning, analyzing how well they address AYSRH and how they can be enhanced to better meet youth needs through the incorporation of evidence-based best practices.
“I have learned a lot and my skills have been strengthened,” said Ibrahim Ousmane Kane, a youth leader from Mauritania. “I will share [what I’ve learned] with young people.”
A youth leader from each country then reported out to all participants about activities in those plans that should be prioritized and how those activities could be strengthened through the incorporation of best practices, including:
- Increasing access to quality youth-friendly contraceptive services, including through incorporation of youth-friendly service delivery elements into existing contraceptive services and expanding youth-focused mobile and community-based services.
- Adapting programs to reach underserved and vulnerable groups of youth, including married adolescents, first-time parents, and out-of-school youth.
- Formalizing mechanisms for meaningful youth participation in the development and implementation of Costed Implementation Plans and AYSRH programs.
- Scaling up evidence-based practices to increase family and community support for access to contraceptive information and services by young people.
- Expanding contraceptive choice for adolescents and youth through the application of WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria, removal of legal and policy barriers; providing nonjudgmental counseling services; and ensuring access to a full range of methods, including long-acting reversible contraception and DMPA-SC.
- Enhancing multi-sectoral coordination.
- Ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education in schools and in out-of-school settings.
- Integrating gender-transformative approaches to plan and implement activities.
The outcomes of this workshop will contribute to the implementation of the Ouagadougou Partnership’s Youth Think Tank Road Map, which was developed during the Partnership’s 5th Annual Partners Meeting in December 2016. The outcomes will also inform preparations for the 2017 Global Summit on Family Planning in London at both country and regional levels. All partners who hosted the workshop will continue to support the nine countries to ensure youth are involved in AYSRH planning, advocacy, and programming, and that Costed Implementation Plans include evidence-based practices to best meet the needs of the region’s adolescents and youth.
A small team from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) also participated in the meeting to learn about how they can adapt the methodology to hold a similar meeting in their country. The meeting in DRC is planned for June 2017.