Press Release

Government of DRC Announces Creation of First National Platform For Engaging Congolese Youth in AYSRH Decision-Making

**The workshop described in this release was held with support from: the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.**

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), August 23-24, 2017- Among immediate results emanating from the youth workshop, held August 23-24 in Kinshasa, was creation of the first national platform for officially engaging youth in decision-making processes about adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH).

The workshop, which focused on planning and budgeting for AYSRH interventions in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was held by the Evidence to Action (E2A) Project and Pathfinder International, in collaboration with the DRC’s Ministry of Health, and with support from USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A representative of DRC’s “National Family Planning Multisectoral Committee” announced the creation of a “youth subgroup” to the Committee, which will officially engage youth in AYSRH-related decision-making. The National Family Planning Multisectoral Committee is charged with national and provincial sexual and reproductive health and family planning policies and programming.

“It is absolutely necessary that youth be involved…in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of these [family planning and sexual and reproductive health] programs,” said Muanda Mbadu, Director of DRC’s National Program for Adolescent Health.

During the workshop, participants—youth, senior government officials, NGOs, and donors—learned about evidence-based practices in AYSRH that can be applied to overcome existing barriers to young people’s attainment of sexual and reproductive health. Those barriers include: inhibitive traditions and laws, poverty, gender inequities, and inaccessibility of quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health services. One of those evidence-based practices is youth leadership and involvement in AYSRH planning and decision-making, which the creation of the youth subgroup to the National Multisectoral Committee seeks to address.

“It is a reality that the majority of adolescent girls, 15-19 years old, have an unintended pregnancy in DRC. And very often, when they don’t want the babies, they have abortions…or they stop pursuing their education and other life plans.” said Marie Musifu, a youth leader from Kinshasa (pictured above). “Based in evidence like this, it is necessary that other young people understand that this situation is very serious.”

“I am very happy to be here with the leaders of these [AYSRH] initiatives and other youth leaders to know there are others in the same battle as me,” she continued. “We are discussing what can we do together to create a youth network that can help to improve AYSRH and how we can coordinate to share these ideas [we have learned here] and change the mentality and social norms.”

The youth and government officials at the workshop came from Kinshasa, as well as the three provinces where E2A operates a community-based family planning program: Lomami, Lualaba, and Kasai Central.

On the second day of the workshop, participants split into groups: one group from each of the three provinces, two groups from Kinshasa, and two national groups. The groups then analyzed their respective Plans d’Actions Operationelles (PAOS)—budgeted plans for adolescent health, including family planning and sexual and reproductive health. During their analysis, they determined how the PAOs can be improved to better meet youth needs and formulated concrete recommendations. These recommendations, including creation of the youth subgroup to the Multisectoral Committee, are intended to be applied when the PAOs are redrafted in September 2017 for the upcoming year.

Additional recommendations emanating from the workshop included the following.

Recommendations from youth leaders:

  • Engage, support, and facilitate youth leaders’ advocacy toward the adoption of favorable laws that concern AYSRH in the country.
  • Ensure AYSRH services are free, and finance an expanded coverage of services for adolescents and youth.
  • Support the creation of a national youth network to exchange experiences and strengthen capacities in AYSRH; Involve youth in all levels of planning and decision-making related to PAOs, strategic plans, and others.

Recommendations from donors and NGO partners:

  • Have each implementing partner working on AYSRH share the strategies developed at the workshop with their organizations, and apply resolutions from the workshop.
  • Through the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Permanent Multisectoral Technical Committee (CTMP) (which includes representatives from all active NGOs), present the strategies and resolutions of the workshop to align partners and operationalize evidence-based AYSRH practices.
  • Have CTMP meet with donors each quarter to share strategies and resolutions to guide future funding.

Recommendations from National Program for Adolescent Health:

  • Create a youth subgroup to the National Family Planning Multisectoral Committee on AYSRH.
  • Advocate with parliaments, at national and provincial level, to include a budgetary line item for AYSRH in their respective budgets.
  • Support the National Program for Adolescent Health, technically and financially, to implement PAOs using evidence-based practices.

In September, E2A will release reports from the technical workshop described in this release and a pre-meeting youth workshop, held on August 21 and described here.