Youth

  • Celebrating youth: Revisiting voices from the Interagency Youth Working Group

    Today, as we observe International Youth Day, we look back on the past eight years of FHI 360’s involvement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG), the only source of global information about preventing both unintended pregnancy and HIV among youth. Our work managing the technical content for the IYWG was conducted under USAID’s Preventive Technologies Agreement, which ends this month.

    During this time, we have made many contributions. The IYWG tools and resources have been used by thousands — more than 30,000 people from 199 countries have visited our website, over 6,000 have participated in our e-forum discussions, and more than 1,000 have attended our annual technical meetings. Since 2007, we have distributed InfoNet twice monthly to approximately 5,000 individuals and developed 21 issues of YouthLens; 1,219 users follow us on Twitter; and 2,444 people like our IYWG and Answer the Call Facebook pages.

    We are grateful to the many dedicated individuals who helped us produce, synthesize and disseminate evidence on youth sexual and reproductive health, and to our partners for sharing their work and supporting ours. To all who have helped us provide practical, evidence-based resources and tools in the service of improving the lives of young people around the world, thank you!

    To mark the end of the IYWG, we are featuring a few of our favorites from the IYWG blog, Half the World. Though we will not be providing any new content, the website and blog will continue to exist as a rich resource for information on youth reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.


  • Too young to wed: The high price of early marriage

    Today, we celebrate Malala Day, a commemoration of girls’ empowerment and gender equality across all areas of human development. Like Malala Yousafzai, thousands of girls around the globe are dedicated to pursuing their education and choosing their life path yet are prevented from realizing their full potential. For the vast majority of these girls, the greatest barrier to schooling is not the bullets of terrorists — it is the day-to-day economic pressures and the unequal social expectations they face as they enter adolescence and young adulthood. It is a sad reality that in the 21st century, many girls are forced into marriage and starting a family as early as age 14, which brings their educational aspirations to a halt.

    Teenage, Married, and Out of School, a new study by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center, highlights the heavy toll early marriage inflicts on school participation among adolescent girls in nine countries of east and southern Africa. While the universally ratified 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), as well as national legislation in all nine countries, protect children against marriage before age 18, early marriage is still visibly present across the region. Some countries, such as Rwanda, have managed to bring this disturbing phenomenon down to a minimum, while marriage at age 14 through age 17 appears to be fairly commonplace in others (Figure 1).

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  • The role of youth sexual and reproductive health in individual and national development

    In honor of this year’s World Population Day, the theme of which is youth engagement and the sustainable development agenda, we are reflecting on youth — our future leaders, parents, entrepreneurs and citizens. Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history: there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 on the planet. In many countries, more than half of the population is under age 25, creating opportunities for national economic growth but also underscoring the need for greater investment in their health — with consequences that will affect the world’s social, environmental and economic well-being for generations.

    Investment in young people’s sexual and reproductive health in particular ensures that young people are not only protected from HIV and other STIs, but also that they have the number of children they desire, when and if they wish to have them. The ability to control one’s fertility increases individuals’ productive capacity and can lead to a decline in a country’s dependency ratio (number of working citizens compared to nonworking citizens). When the dependency ratio declines in conjunction with adequate investments in youth education and economic opportunity, per capita income can increase — a phenomenon known as the demographic dividend.

    Unfortunately, many young people do not have access to the critical sexual and reproductive health information and services required to stay healthy and avoid unintended pregnancy. Many young women report not wanting to become pregnant, but the level of unmet need for contraception among adolescents is more than twice that of adults. In some regions of the world, the unmet need for contraception among adolescents is as high as 68 percent. Fulfilling the unmet need for contraceptives among adolescents alone could prevent an estimated 7.4 million unintended pregnancies annually.

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  • Naomi

    What prevents girls in Nigeria from receiving a quality education?

    Girls in Nigeria face many obstacles. These include high school fees, gender inequality and other social pressures that cause them to drop out. Security is a big risk for many girls, especially since the recent kidnappings. Some girls are just too afraid to go to class. The conditions at school can also be a challenge. My class has 50 students and no fan. Some classrooms have no ceiling, no fan and even more students. At certain times of the day, like when the sun is directly overhead, it is too hot for students to even sit in the classroom and impossible for them to concentrate and learn.

    Some policies also limit girls. If a girl is pregnant, she cannot return to school after she has her baby. One mistake should not be the end of a girl’s education.

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  • Why adolescents?

    In 2012, young people ages 15 to 24 accounted for an estimated 40 percent of new nonpediatric HIV infections worldwide [UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report 2012]. Furthermore, perinatal HIV transmission is a major cause for HIV infection, and given the success of pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART), many more infants born with HIV are growing up into adolescents and young adults living with HIV.

    While care and treatment programs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) can be found in every country, there is a gap in provision of ongoing, supportive counseling for adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Adolescence is often when young people begin having sex, which increases chances that adolescents living with HIV might pass the infection to partners who are HIV negative. Another concern is that girls living with HIV may become pregnant; if they do not know about or have access to services for preventing mother-to-child transmission, they can pass the infection to their babies. Given that adolescents are a large sub-group of those living with HIV, there is a need for tailored interventions and support systems that address adolescents’ unique vulnerabilities.

    Positive Connections

    To shed light on the specific health and social support needs of ALHIV, FHI 360 — on behalf of USAID’s Interagency Youth Working Group — developed a resource called Positive Connections: Leading Information and Support Groups for Adolescents Living with HIV. This unique guide provides facilitators with background information about the needs of ALHIV, tips for starting an adult-led information and support group, 14 sessions to follow in a group setting and guidance on tracking a program’s progress.

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  • The future of workforce development

    goldmark-lara-2015-200x220How has the definition of workforce development changed?

    Workforce development used to be considered the “poor cousin of education.” It was defined as providing training to produce more and better-prepared workers. Thought leaders have since pushed for a more expansive view. Workforce development is now considered to be more than a single program or initiative. It is an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs: It prepares workers with needed skills, emphasizes the value of workplace learning and addresses the hiring demands of employers from the outset. The goal is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities.

    Why does workforce development matter globally?

    Unemployment is a major issue for countries at various stages of development. A rapid increase in the youth population combined with social and political challenges has exacerbated the unemployment crisis in some of these countries. Workforce development is a logical and important solution to these problems, but only if it is approached in an effective way.

    What are key elements of an effective approach to workforce development?

    At the national or regional level, there must be an alignment between skills development and public- and private-sector investments to ensure that job creation keeps pace with the preparation of the workforce. Also, program quality — especially demand responsiveness — should be emphasized over scale. Scale is important, but there have been too many large-scale supply-driven efforts in the past.

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  • Creating pathways to health careers through mentorship

    Mentors can make a huge difference in the lives of young people. I have learned that firsthand in the last five years as a volunteer mentor for students in the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program in Wilmington, Delaware.

    The BTE program, funded by Johnson & Johnson and managed by FHI 360, helps students from disadvantaged communities learn about health careers and what they need to do to enter these fields. Higher education, whether through a four-year college or a two-year technical degree, is often the outcome. A key element of the program is providing one-on-one mentoring to students to ensure college-bound students enroll and succeed.

    I usually meet my mentee, Kevin, once a week. We talk about school, homework, BTE activities and how he will achieve his goals. Kevin started out as an average student, doing only what he needed to do to get by in school. After more than two years in BTE, Kevin has learned public speaking skills, confidence and more about careers and the college education he will need to achieve his goals. Now, he is an honor roll student and president of his senior class. Lately, our conversations revolve around which college Kevin will attend and what financial supports he will need.

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  • Last week, we hosted a live online discussion about essential community building blocks for breaking the links between poverty and poor health outcomes. The need to think creatively is perhaps strongest in local HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. Cultural pressures, health myths and access issues can hamper engagement and progress and yet, two campaigns are making strides.

    The Many “Reasons” to Get Checked Program

    Putting a positive spin on HIV testing for young men at high risk for the disease may be a daunting task, but culturally poignant messages may go a long way toward selling the value of getting checked.

    Manuel Rodriguez manages the “Reasons” program for the nonprofit human development organization, FHI 360. Reasons is a messaging campaign that aims to get Latino men who have sex with men to undergo testing for the HIV virus. It comprises social media outreach, print, TV and online advertisements, and presence at gay pride events, and currently focuses on cities with many members of the target population, including Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

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  • Innovative technologies address youth unemployment in Iraq

    What is the Foras project?

    The word foras means “opportunity” in Arabic, an apt name for this project, which seeks to dramatically accelerate individuals’ access to employment opportunities in Iraq. USAID-Foras has launched web-based and mobile technology platforms to overcome barriers to employment, linking jobseekers with employers. Our immediate goal is to increase the number of youth and adults placed in jobs, but ultimately we want to introduce a more efficient model for how employers hire their workforce.

    Why is this project needed in Iraq?

    What USAID-Foras is doing in Iraq is essential to growth of the country’s economy and its stability. About 50 percent of the population in Iraq is 25 years or younger, and roughly half of that demographic is unemployed. Even more alarming, about 400,000 new jobseekers or eligible workers are added the economy yearly, but a vast majority of these individuals remain unemployed. This problem will only worsen without intervention.

    What technologies has Foras launched thus far and who has access to them?

    In 2013, we launched an online jobs portal, which is used by jobseekers and employers looking to hire. We adapted our portal from a similar tool developed by Microsoft in partnership with Silatech, a Qatar-based nonprofit organization. The original portal allowed jobseekers to upload a personal profile and resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and to look for available positions. We improved on this portal by adding a feature that matches jobseekers based on their skills and experiences to jobs that have been listed on the site by employers. We also made it available in English and Arabic.

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  • Business-education partnerships: Johnson & Johnson helps to change the landscape

    Too many students, more than 1.2 million, drop out of school every year in the United States alone and increasing numbers of young people are unemployed globally. Sadly, of the 13 million children growing up in poverty today, only 1 in 10 will graduate from college. There is evidence that the private sector can to help with filling the academic and skill gaps that hinder our young people from succeeding in high school. Business volunteers in communities around the world inspire students to set career goals; they guide young people in building their confidence through mentorship and project-based learning. The business community and the education community need each other now more than ever but the collaboration between schools and businesses is not always happening at a necessary scale.

    I had the pleasure of participating in a regional business-education conference in Fresno, California, recently and walked away with renewed optimism and a few important learnings. First, business-education partnerships are two-way and, when successful, engage all stakeholders including parents and students. Second, to be successful, we have learned that business-education partnerships must have clearly articulated goals and a means of measuring progress including outputs and outcomes. In the end, we need to define the value that these collaborations bring to all of the stakeholders at all stages of the partnership.

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