Youth

  • Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Bangladesh through the Sustainable Development Goals

    In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend a national consultation with members of Parliament in Bangladesh on integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights into the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The consultation was hosted by the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh with support from the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

    Bangladesh has made impressive strides toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It has met the gender parity goals for primary and secondary education and is on track to fulfill the tertiary education goals. Bangladesh has also met the under-five mortality-reduction rate goal and is likely to reach the goal of reducing maternal mortality.

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  • Math identity is the key to girls’ math success

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.

    As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.

    There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math.

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  • Envisioning a world in which youth are at the center of their reproductive lives

    Kelly L’EngleImagine the potential if each one of the 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries could have full control over her reproductive life. She would be able to stay in school, delay marriage, postpone pregnancy, and support herself and her community. Yet, approximately 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year and one-third of girls give birth before their 20th birthday.

    To advocate for young people’s access to safe, reliable contraceptive information and services, FHI 360 co-hosted a meeting today on youth and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS). With participants including the LARC and Permanent Methods Community of Practice Secretariat, Population Services International, Marie Stopes International and Pathfinder, the meeting highlighted the range of highly effective contraception methods available and provided a platform for tackling tough questions about how to effectively promote LARCs for youth.

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  • Taking a student-based approach to youth development

    How do we best meet the needs of adolescents, recognizing that the world they are entering is rapidly changing?

    Youth programming should focus on the successful transition from adolescence to adulthood, rather than on the reduction of behavioral problems, a past trend. Such programming ensures adolescents’ mental and physical health, as well as provides opportunities to develop positive social values, human and social capital, a sense of well-being and an ability to make sound choices.

    Unfortunately, donor-funded discourse on secondary education reform is still dominated by a dialogue on expanding access and improving quality in education. Youth development and large-scale secondary school reform usually operate on parallel tracks, with youth development approached through afterschool, extracurricular or nonformal programming.

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  • Research points to the power of educational equity in reducing civil conflict

    Unequal educational opportunity often lies at the heart of deep inequities in economic productivity, social well-being and participation in democratic institutions. Key livelihood statistics show that across the globe, individuals with lower levels of education are more likely to earn less, have poorer health outcomes and are less likely to enter leadership positions. For this reason, efforts to improve equity must start with education.

    A soon-to-be released study, completed by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) and commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme, indicates that ensuring equitable access to educational resources may be more than just a moral right: It may also contribute to reducing the likelihood of civil conflict.

    Using an innovative methodology that captures disparities in educational attainment among ethnic and religious groups, as well as among subnational regions within countries, we found that violent civil conflict is more likely in countries with high levels of disparity among groups. Preliminary results showed that the difference in the odds of conflict between highly unequal and more equal countries was large in magnitude and held true even after accounting for the countries’ differences in economic development, political systems, populations and income inequalities.

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  • A warm welcome in Mumbai

    It was 100 degrees outside when we pulled up in front a school in Mumbai last month. We were greeted by the sounds of booming drums, singing voices and ringing tambourines. The children were assembled outside of the school to welcome us. Before arriving, I was curious about how these children would receive us, but all doubts slipped away as they met us with open arms. The memory of that welcome continues to humble and inspire me in my travels to similar schools around the globe. Fifty students from two Mumbai schools were selected to participate in the three-year Johnson & Johnson Bridge to Employment (BTE) program designed to provide academic support, encourage lifelong learning and build awareness of careers in health care. BTE also works with parents, teachers and employees to support and guide students to new opportunities.

    According to 2012 data, only 58 percent of students from municipal areas graduate, leaving 42 out of every 100 young people without a high school diploma. For more than 20 years, BTE has been focusing on impacting communities all around the world with similar statistics.

    We’ve trained over 20 Johnson & Johnson employees, who serve as volunteers to mentor these 50 children, ages 13–16. BTE volunteers here in India and in all programs around the globe talk to their mentees about life and what it took to reach their own career goals and why civic engagement matters. Mentors teach students time management as well as resume writing, interviewing, teamwork and communication skills.

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  • What challenges do girls in Kenya face in receiving a quality education?

    First, there is the barrier of poverty. The high cost of school fees often does not allow girls to enroll in school, because they cannot afford the books, supplies and uniforms. Even if they can pay their fees, they often cannot afford menstrual hygiene products, and without them, their learning is interrupted due to school absence. Next, discrimination in society and school makes it difficult for girls. Girls are only seen as future mothers, wives and caretakers. They are not seen as capable of tackling difficult subjects such as math and science. Because of this, girls often have low self-esteem and lose interest in school. They also fear sexual harassment and violence, which can make traveling to and from school dangerous. Finally, girls are expected to take on many more household duties than boys and often cannot devote adequate time to their studies, causing them to fall behind.

    How has the Four Pillars PLUS project made a difference to you?

    Four Pillars PLUS paid for my school fees at a boarding school, where I was able to get a quality of education that many girls could not. At boarding school, I had more time to study because I no longer had to do chores until late in the evening. I did not have to fear for my safety as I did when I walked long distances between school and my home each day. As a result, I studied hard and finished secondary school with a B+ average.

    Receiving mentoring helped me to deal with discrimination. It allowed me to see myself as a person with the same opportunities as boys.

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  • 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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