Nine Ouagadougou Partnership Countries Include Youth in Deliberations about How to Make Smart Investments in Contraceptive Programming for Young People
May 10, 2017, OUAGADOUGOU—Representatives from the nine Ouagadougou Partnership countries, including senior government officials, civil society, and youth leaders—some who serve as FP2020 youth ambassadors in their countries—have united in Ouagadougou today to discuss plans for improving young West Africans’ sexual and reproductive health through better access to contraceptive information and services.
Dr. Robert Kargougou, Secretary-General, Burkina Faso Ministry of Health, welcomed the participants from across Francophone West Africa. Our country is about to embark on a phase of acceleration in its strategy for family planning, and in this accelerating phase, we are focusing on youth, he said. This workshop comes at the right time—and we can draw lessons from it.
The meeting, “Examining progress and planning for further evidence-informed investments in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health,” is 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.
Building on growing energy in West Africa to improve adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health—a region with the some of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies in the world—the meeting seeks to identify ways to offer youth a better chance to achieve their aspirations and contribute to the development of themselves, their families, and their countries by ensuring they know about and can access contraception.
“When young people have access to effective sexual and reproductive health services, services that provide a full range of contraceptives, and we give women and girls the option of choosing when to become pregnant, we encourage further education and career development,” said Bijou Muhura of the USAID Mission in Burkina Faso.
The meeting specifically focuses on how to advance Costed Implementation Plans for Family Planning—and ensure the incorporation of evidence-based practices in those plans—to meet the unique needs of different youth populations.
“Throughout these efforts in West Africa—and across sub-Saharan Africa—E2A has used evidence-based practices that if were applied more widely could have a significant positive impact on the adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said Rita Badiani, Director of Pathfinder’s E2A Project. “This meeting will give you the chance to examine if these practices have been incorporated into your Costed Implementation Plans, and, if not, how to better incorporate them going forward to improve adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health.”
Youth leaders from each of the countries are involved in the deliberations, specifically to examine how to better engage youth in carrying out the Costed Implementation Plans.
"It is important that when we talk about young people, the young people are there," said Sorofing Traore, a youth leader from Mali. “In my village, there is a proverb that one cannot shave a person's head without the presence of that person.”
During the meeting, country teams are reflecting on how they can carry forth their plans outlined in the “Ouagadougou Partnership Youth Think Tank Road Map” created at the annual Ouagadougou Partnership meeting in December 2016.
"This workshop is an opportunity for the country teams to think about how they will make a difference in their country when they return so that decisions can be taken," said Rodrigue Ngouana, Country Relations Manager for the nine Ouagadougou Partnership countries.
During the morning session, nine Ministry of Health representatives described interventions currently underway to meet young people’s unaddressed family planning needs. Those interventions are just a few of the many included in their Costed Implementation Plans for Family Planning.
Participants then heard about evidence-based practices that have successfully improved contraceptive choice for adolescents and youth, including married youth and first-time parents—which have historically been neglected by reproductive health programming. They also learned about the Global Consensus Statement for Expanding Method Choice for Youth and the recommendations included within—which a consortium of partners, including E2A and Pathfinder, are working to advance.
Youth leaders, who met the day prior during a workshop led by the Torchlight Collective to prepare for their engagement with country teams, presented several recommendations toward strengthening the participation of youth in AYSRH initiatives. Those recommendations included:
- Ensure formal channels for young people’s participation in the drafting of Costed Implementation Plans.
- Involve networks of young ambassadors in reflections and decision-making in different countries.
- Organize capacity building for youth on the budget to better understand the budget process, monitoring and evaluation, and information, communication, and technology related to sexual and reproductive health.
- Assign young people the implementation of certain activities directly affecting them.
“This workshop is an opportunity for me to know and understand that young people must take their destiny in their own hands for their development in an Africa full of prejudices about sexual and reproductive health,” said Zeynab Bere, a youth leader from Burkina Faso. “I will encourage more young people to conduct activities to improve adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, including forums, theater, and debates.”
In the afternoon, country teams examined their Costed Implementation Plans and shared their reflections. They will continue to examine how to better incorporate adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health interventions in their plans today.
A small team from the Democratic Republic of the Congo also joined the meeting to contribute to the discussions and learn about they can hold a similar meeting that will engage Congolese youth in their country.