In most African countries, abortion is not legalized and sexuality education is not included in the school curriculum. The consequences of these, and we did not expect anything less, are increased rate of teenage pregnancy, child marriage, prevalence of STIs, decreased number of girls enrolling into school and completing their education, and unsafe and dangerous abortion which some young girls secretly indulge into to save their face from shame, which could harm or kill them.
Majority of young people in the universities, secondary and primary schools in Africa are sexually active and are having unprotected sex at a very grave risk. This is while teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are prevalent in the region with girls between 30 and 51 percent of girls giving birth before they are 18. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of girls marry before age 18, and African countries account for 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally. Also cases of the prevalence of STIs are higher among young people than in other age groups. At least 95 percent of all new HIV cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, with sub-Saharan Africa by far the hardest hit region. Nearly 76 percent of young people living with HIV reside in sub-Saharan Africa.
The root cause of this is lack of tailored and comprehensive SRHR education with a wider reach that is focused on young people. Although there has been momentum in implementing sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) services in most countries including Africa, young people typically, remain underserved by these services despite their demonstrated need. Majority of young people in the region will never know anything about sexual and reproductive health from either their school teacher or parents until they are attending marriage counseling or fall victim due to the narrow belief that SRH is exclusively for married couples or “the content is unholy to be taught to young people”. Most teachers in schools are indifferent towards this issue, majority of them have no knowledge of what comprehensive and youth-tailored sexuality education is all about. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 10% of young men and 15% of young women were aware of their HIV status. Even when young people are able to access services, they may feel embarrassed, face stigma on sexual matters, or have concerns about judgmental providers. Youth-friendly health services (YFHS) are a promising approach to delivering health services to meet the SRH needs of young people.
Young people require services that support their physiological, cognitive, emotional, and social transition into adulthood. Delivering quality services that are tailored to young people may improve service use, adherence to contraceptive methods, and increase the likelihood of obtaining ongoing care. Therefore, understanding how to best deliver services to young people and evaluating the impact of service delivery is essential to improving youth SRH outcomes. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2001 Global Consultation on Adolescent Friendly Health Services, SRH services for adolescents should aim to achieve at least one of three goals: (1) provide a supportive environment, (2) improve reproductive health knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors, and (3) increase utilization of health and related services. The WHO guidelines for providing YFHS recommend services that are accessible, acceptable, equitable, appropriate and effective.
Studies have shown that promoting sexual and reproductive health knowledge among young people can drastically reduce teenage pregnancy, child marriage and prevalence of STIs among young people. Workshops, seminars and conferences aimed towards providing tailored and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health knowledge to young people and (re)training youth delegates or youth leaders to advance these programs in their communities, schools and organizations remains the best option. But lack of funds for NGOs to conduct SRH programs for young girls and their teachers, which will strengthen sexuality education in schools, is also a major hindrance. Most country offices of UNFPA today, the world’s leading champing in advancing women’s and girls’ rights, receives a paltry in funding compared to what they used to receive before to promote women’s and girls’ reproductive health and right. They are shrinking their programs to fit in their budget, which will have devastating effects in the health and wellbeing of women and girls in the following years, especially in the developing countries.
The cost of conducting far-reaching workshops for young people in schools and communities is rising day by day. For instance, ISYI has a target to advance SRH programs in school in Nigeria. There are about 337 tertiary institutions in Nigeria. By our calculation, it will cost not less than $2 million US dollars to conduct a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health program or workshop for young girls and health workers in these universities by conventional method of hiring 337 SRH experts, flying them to the different locations, lodging them in a nice hotel and providing all the technical and logistical needs. Also Nigeria has over 7000 secondary schools, and conducting SRH programs or workshop for these secondary school students and their teachers by the same standards of hiring 7000 SRH experts could cost not less then $35 million US dollars. We don’t have that kind of money. And apart from that, finding SRH experts that could deliver comprehensive sexuality education training to young girls appropriate for their age is a difficult task. This is similar in most African countries. That is a major problem. Therefore, there is need for an urgent intervention, to explore alternative methods that are both cost-effective and far-reaching!
ISYI’s Media-Centred and Tech-Driven Solution
To conquer the problem of distance, which inhibits wider coverage, lack of trained experts and poor funding, ISYI has developed a media-centered and tech-driven solution which is essentially utilizing multi-point videoconferencing that is both interactive and engaging. We have identified best videoconferencing platforms for this, like Zoom, U-Stream and Cisco Webex. We have run some pilots and it was successful. It happens like this: Workshops are taught or conducted remotely by one or two SRH expert(s) from UNFPA for a particular group in one location and hundreds of other campuses or schools across the region would join in and participate online through live streaming with a HD projector, wide screen for perfect view and clarity and clear sound system which brings the workshop live as though the expert was right there in their midst delivering his/her material. With slido.com all the participants of the workshop from wherever they are could interact, collaborate, share their ideas, ask questions and receive instant answers and feedback. Each participating group or school will be supported by a tech expert (usually a student of the university or any other young person with skills in tech who will help set up the platform) and a face-to-face program coordinator in their hall who could be one of the trained members of our organization (or another organization) resident in their area or studying in that university, or a campus health worker that will ensure all the participants participated actively. In the case of secondary schools, one of their teachers will be the coordinator. With this solution, we can deliver a comprehensive and youth-focused SRH program or workshop to students and campus health across the region with over 75% cut in cost compared with conventional method.
Advancing the Solution in 10 African Countries
ISYI is leveraging its relationship with youth-led organizations across the continent to advance the media-centred and tech-driven solution across the African continent, especially the sub-Saharan regions to massively promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health. These regions include Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Kenya, Gambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Burundi, Congo and Nigeria.
To implement our solution we are collaborating with youth-led organizations scattered across the continent, and UNFPA country offices and their partners in the sub-Saharan African regions. Our organization has a good relationship with UNFPA having
implemented some projects for them.For the first part of the implementation, ISYI will leverage the media-centred solution to train campus health workers, community health practioners and advocates, school teachers and youth leaders of organizations in the region, at least 20 from each of the ten countries, who will advance the program in their communities, schools and organizations. The second part of the implementation will be hosting a sexual and reproductive health workshop for a larger audience of young people, at least 30 in each region. This second part will give the advocates trained during the first part of the implementation firsthand experience of how conducting SRH workshop for a larger audience of young people actually works. These trained advocates from schools, communities and organizations have the potential to reach millions of young people by collaborating with their partners and their country UNFPA offices to advance the program and engage communities and schools to promote young people’s SRH.
ISYI will hire one or two SRH experts from UNFPA Nigeria who will conduct tailored SRH training and workshop in Nigeria which while the other nine branches across the region will participate via an interactive live stream. With tools like slido.com, U-Stream, Webex Cisco, Zoom, etc, live streaming is most effective, simple, interactive, cost-effective and it feels the person delivering the material is right there. Participants participate fully in everything including ice breaking, sharing their views, ask questions and get instant answers. Participants see both the materials displayed and the expert interpreting the material, so they feel the expert’s passion and enthusiasm about his material. Participates send instant voice messages and video calls to share their ideas and recap. It just feels so good!
- Wider Reach – Technology breaks boundaries. This solution will make it possible to reach an unimaginable number of people at a time in the region, even those in the hardest to reach areas afflicted by crises and wars where experts often are scared to go to. Also
- Offset the Challenges of Poor Funding and Lack of Trained Experts – With the solution, it will be possible to reach an even greater number of people with little funding, and one or two experts stationed in one remote location.
- Improved Sexuality Education in Schools and Communities – The project will advance sexuality education in schools and communities by engaging students, teachers, and campus and community health workers handling young people who will be trained and equipped with skills and knowledge to promote young people’s SRH. Teachers and campus health workers will prioritize sexuality education in schools and universities.
- Generally Improved Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People – The project will promote the sexual and reproductive health of young people, especially young girls. The solution, if scaled could be adopted by UNFPA and UNICEF and other organizations concerned about young people’s SRH in collaboration with schools, communities and partners will have greater chances to advance the sexual and reproductive health of young girls through this method. It will also influence policies in the schools in favor of young people’s sexual and reproductive health.
- Reduced Teenage Pregnancy and Child Marriage – The project will significantly reduce teenage pregnancy and child marriage across the sub-Saharan African regions.
- Potentially Improve Girls’ Education – The reality of teenage pregnancy in developed countries is not the same in the sub-Saharan African region. While girls in Europe or America could get pregnant and still further their education after giving birth or comfortably have a safe abortion, but in Sub-Saharan Africa, teenage pregnancy means the end of a girl’s future and her dream like in Tanzania and Sierra Leone, where school officials conduct pregnancy test and expel pregnant students. The project will promote girls’ education in the region and keep girls at school by reducing teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
- Reduction in STIs – The project will reduce the risk of contacting STIs among young people in general, as they will be aware and responsible for their own protection and health.
- Promote Adolescent Health and Well-Being – Teenage pregnancy kills young girls in the region! Obstetric fistula is predominant among teenage mothers in the region, and abortion is not legalized in most of the regions, and most abortions that young girls secretly indulge into to escape the stigma of teenage pregnancy are unsafe and dangerous; and it makes young girls and their kids suffer abject poverty for life. The project will significantly promote adolescent health and reduce death or severe health risks among young people caused by unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancy.
- Improved Data Collection and Sharing: With more trained SRH advocates that have access to communities and schools, it will be easy to collect young people’s SRH data and sharing of this data for more comprehensive and effect intervention.
- Reduce Carbon Emission – The project, significantly reduces traveling which also reduces carbon emission and saves the environment.
Why this Solution is the best Approach
- Involves young people in designing and running it. Youths more than adults accurately identify the needs of their peers and can propose appropriate ways to meet those needs.
- Trains youth as peer educators in communities, schools, organizations and campus clubs. Also trains (young) educators that handle young people, like school teachers and health workers.
- Easily adapted
- Wider reach
- Provide culturally appropriate information in the language and at the comprehension level of the young people. Information meets youth’s needs and concerns.
- Reach out with activities that make young people aware of the importance of sexual health care. Inform youth about available services and assure them of confidentiality.
- Conducive environment where young people are not ashamed or judged
Some Responses from Prospective Partners from Across the Region
It is a pleasure to hear from you and reaching out to me with this exciting and innovative way of engaging young people and stakeholders in Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Like any other country Zimbabwe is facing funding challenges for some of the projects that would see a change in the face of SRHR. As for my organization, My Age Zimbabwe Trust is a community based organisation which is also part of a broader national network of organisations and it would be ideal to take part in this initiative to effectively engage young people and youth driven organisations building capacity at a low cost. Once again on behalf of the organisation we are excited and would like to be part of the initiative on behalf of ISYI in Zimbabwe. I will be available for any convenience and further exploration of the engagement.
Tinotenda Thulani Kabai, Zimbabwe
My Age Zimbabwe Trust
Nous sommes intéressés par ce programme.
Alima DRAME, Senegal
Secrétaire Générale de AfriYAN/Girls
Wish you a blessed day. My name is Aji The Gambia I apologize for the late response.
I have read the email in connection to the Subject it’s an amazing idea that will definitely help create a lasting impact on benefit participants, learning never stops therefore capacity building is key in our lives and with this unique and coat effective method of training will be very much appreciated. With consultation With my fellow activist we buy the idea and yes we can facilitate this activity although The Gambia has been challenged with internet but we met with an NETPAGE one of Gambians leading network companies and gave us ideas on how to implement this live streaming capacity building. These are my comments for now, I hope to hear from you soon.
Aji Isatou Saho, Gambia
Think Young Women
Thank you so much for the invitation to join this amazing and wonderful innovation. Surely this innovation will bring untold breakthrough across the region. The voice of youth cannot be ignored.
Tony Mwebia, Kenya
Men End FGM Kenya
Thank you so much for conducting me into the Integrated Student and Youth Initiative (ISYI) organization. I have gladly read through your email and am greatly pleased with the strategy of using media technology to achieve Humanitarian activities of society amidst the set backs from the UN programs. As a change maker working with Reproductive Health Kapchorwa, Uganda, I gladly agree with the idea as there is a high demand to train participants in communities in SRHR. Reading from your mail, it seems the media technology solution has worked in various pilot locations something which is encouraging. As a change maker, i believe that we can implore the same pilot project within my organisation n my organisation. i must confess, it is something new and probably strange to others but nonetheless, we are willing to pilot it to ensure the sustainability of the community. As a change maker, am privileged to be endowed with computer and related technology, this creates a boost of confidence in carrying out the training’s with my organisation. Probably, i would only raise one concern, as an organisation we might not have readily have the entire equipment to fully perform the training as the mode of training requires technology equipment for example projectors, Internet facilities among others. Can the ISYI suggest a solution to it or is there a provision in the said grant to cater for it. Once again, am grateful for the opportunity to work with you and am readily available to execute and implement the pilot project in my Country and in my Organisation.
CHELANGAT GLORIA, Uganda
Reproductive Health, Kapchorwa, Uganda
Currently, ISYI is soliciting for funds and resources to implement this initiative. We welcome support in form of grants and donations to implement this project. For more information or for funding opportunities please contact us through
Office: No 4 Ernest Aiyedum Street, Phase 3, Gwagwalada, FCT, Abuja.
Project manager, ISYI