Youth

  • Celebrating International Literacy Day: FHI 360’s comprehensive approach

    Today’s celebration of International Literacy Day 2013 is an opportunity for the international development community to reflect upon and reinvigorate its approach to ensuring that all children are able to read and write. In recent years, a shift from focusing primarily on access to an increased focus on learning, particularly foundation skills such as reading and writing, has been an important step for children worldwide. At the same time, the desire for quick fixes to reduce childhood illiteracy may be contributing to the development of approaches that are too narrowly focused and do not consider all of the factors that shape a child’s ability to learn to read and write.

    Currently, the global education team at FHI 360 is implementing seven educational projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or Hess Corporation that focus on improving reading for children in early grades, in countries as diverse as Kosovo, Ethiopia and Peru. Although these projects differ according to their contexts, they are all rooted in the understanding that systems, schools, environmental and individual factors all play a role in creating a reader. This understanding is reflected in FHI 360’s approach to literacy improvement in primary schools: Literacy 360°. (See figure.)

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  • Protecting children from the unintended consequences of economic strengthening programs

    econstrength_degrees_smIt is a common belief that programs designed to increase household income will automatically have positive effects on children. In fact, the evidence shows that this assumption cannot be taken for granted. In some cases, the interventions that increase household economic activities actually lead to greater problems for children and youth, such as more child labor and less school attendance, particularly in the short term.

    For the past five years, the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network and the Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by FHI 360, have sought to understand how economic strengthening programs affect children living in poverty and in humanitarian crises. To better inform practitioners, they collaborated to create Children and Economic Strengthening Projects: Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Harm, a new guide that explains how economic interventions can achieve better outcomes and impacts for children ages 0–18.

    Rooted in field experience, the guide shows how to mitigate the unintended threats to children from economic strengthening activities and ways to maximize benefits to children, whether they are the direct or indirect beneficiaries. The guide draws on the extensive child protection expertise of the CPC Task Force, the STRIVE project’s experience in facilitating cross-sectoral collaborations, and recognized best practices for market-based economic strengthening programming.1

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  • Development professionals who want to create effective interventions that improve the well-being of children and youth must have an in-depth understanding of how young people spend their time. Time-use research yields valuable, contextual data that can inform the design and implementation of interventions and the measurement of outcomes. This data sheds light on key measures of well-being, including school attendance, access to opportunities for play and socialization, safety, child labor and gender inequalities. Tracking changes in time use can also help projects identify successes and risks to children so that practitioners can suggest appropriate adjustments to interventions.

    Traditionally, this information has been gathered from adults. That input, however, can be skewed by the value adults place on certain activities, which is why it is important to work directly with children and youth to gather information on their time use.

    FHI 360’s Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project developed a tool and guide for child-friendly, participatory rapid appraisal (PRA) to help with these efforts: The Time Use PRA Guide and Toolkit for Child and Youth Development Practitioners.

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  • Award-winning publication helps students with asthma keep active

    Regular physical activity is important for health and well-being. But for the estimated one in 10 students in the United States who have asthma, their condition may be viewed as a barrier to physical activity, particularly if their asthma is not well controlled.

    Thankfully, teachers, coaches, and school administrators now have an award-winning tool to guide them in supporting students who have asthma, so those students can participate fully and safely in physical activity — whether in the gym, on the playground or during a class field trip.

    The tool, Asthma & Physical Activity in the School: Making a Difference, was developed by FHI 360 and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The publication received a 2013 ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that advocates for and supports the use of plain language in government, business and academic institutions. Its annual ClearMark Awards celebrate the best in plain language among public- and private-sector print and online communications.

    An update of the 1995 publication of the same name, this 32-page booklet provides school personnel with essential information in an easy-to-digest format that they can use to help students with asthma remain healthy and active. It explains technical asthma terms in simple language, calls out actions for school staff and includes helpful reproducible tools, such as asthma action plans and instructions on using asthma inhalers and other devices. The update reflects changes in asthma care guidelines, issued in 2007 by the NHLBI, and clarifies key points about asthma control.

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  • Getting to zero: National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day

    More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 30 and has never lived in a time without AIDS. Despite the steady progress of our collective scientific and community efforts to end the HIV epidemic, the lives of young people continue to be especially vulnerable. To bring attention to this ongoing crisis and to commit ourselves to achieving an AIDS-free generation, today marks the first National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV each year. Of those, one in four is between 13 and 24 years old. Further, CDC reports that nearly 60 percent of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, 20 percent in Latinos and about 20 percent in whites. In 2010, CDC estimates that 87 percent of the 12,000 annual infections in youth occurred among gay and bisexual young men. Nearly half of all new infections among American youth occur in African American males.

    In a CDC Vital Signs report released for World AIDS Day 2012, the agency noted that “about 60 percent of youth do not know they are infected and so don’t receive treatment, putting them at risk for sickness and early death. These youth can also unknowingly pass HIV to others.”

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  • Every child has the right to be safe from harm. Still, millions of children around the world are abused, neglected and exploited every year. Because children who experience violence and abuse can become adults who are less able to contribute to their societies, protecting children from harm is a vital aspect of development programs. To that end, FHI 360 developed a three-part child protection toolkit to help our programs and local implementing partners protect the children they serve.

    The first manual, Child Protection Basics, presents the fundamental aspects of child protection. It describes different types of maltreatment and factors that contribute to child maltreatment. It also describes how to create a protective environment using a systems approach. The systems approach examines and addresses all the circumstances that challenge children’s well-being as a whole, rather than addressing each of them individually or in a fragmented way.

    The second manual, Guidelines and Programming Options for Protecting Vulnerable Children in Community-Based Care and Support Programs, can be used as a reference document for integrating child protection into the design of programs, strengthening existing programs and tailoring training. The manual shows the importance of conducting a child-protection analysis, which looks at risk factors, and outlines strategies and interventions that can be implemented at the child, family, community and government levels to protect children in accordance with global principles and best practices. The authors also discuss the importance of protecting children in emergencies and the need and challenges of ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities.

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  • Partner reduction to avoid HIV risk is the focus for a new publication

    Promoting Partner Reduction title page

    Having multiple sexual partners, particularly when relationships overlap in time, is a major driver of the HIV epidemic. Overlapping, or concurrent, relationships increase the number of people who are connected in a “sexual network,” and HIV spreads more quickly the larger the sexual network. Although young people report having multiple sexual partners, few HIV prevention programs for youth tackle this topic.

    FHI 360, on behalf of USAID’s Interagency Youth Working Group, recently helped address this gap with a new publication, Promoting Partner Reduction: Helping Young People Understand and Avoid HIV Risks from Multiple Partnerships. The late Dr. Doug Kirby of ETR Associates was a major contributor.

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  • New USAID Policy and FHI 360’s Community YouthMapping Approach Let Young People Drive Development

    The recently released Youth in Development policy from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) puts youth squarely on the map in international development. As a supporter of positive youth development, I was particularly happy to see support for the engagement of youth, “elevating their voices and ensuring meaningful opportunities to contribute to resolving issues and promoting positive change in their communities and nations.”

    Putting young people in the driver’s seat of the development of their communities and countries actually works. Several years ago, on the hot, dusty streets of N’Djamena in Chad, I walked alongside pairs of energetic young people sporting white shirts, blue backpacks and baseball caps. The young women and men were interviewing community members in an outdoor market using a process we taught them called Community YouthMapping (CYM). Their goal was to collect data about gaps in services and opportunities for young people in the neighborhood. The same exercise was taking place throughout N’Djamena in diverse neighborhoods, northern and southern, Christian and Muslim, rich and poor. An analysis of the complete data set would be reported back to the communities and used by the youth and youth-led organizations to develop and implement social, cultural and economic activities for urban youth.

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  • International Day of the Girl

    Today, October 11, 2012, marks the first UN International Day of the Girl.  This day has been set aside to recognize girls’ rights and the challenges they face. The theme for this year is ending child marriage.  On the UN International Day of the Girl, we are launching a series highlighting our work with girls around the world.  We invite you to participate in the conversation on twitter with #IDG and #DayoftheGirl.


  • To Get a Jump on Bullying, Start with Young Children and the School Culture

    October is National Bullying Prevention Month. How should we address bullying in schools?

    Our research, which included in-class observations and focus groups with teachers and parents, found that bullying and teasing were prevalent in early childhood and early elementary grades. It’s important to look at behavior in the early grades because bullying progresses as children get older.

    We also address the issue school-wide, not just in the classroom. Our philosophy is to create a proactive climate where bullying is not an acceptable part of the culture. It’s very important to create a school-wide approach where differences are appreciated so that they don’t become triggers for bullying and teasing.

    How does this approach empower adults and children?

    We reach out to all adults who are involved with children at school, including parents and non-teaching staff such as paraprofessionals and bus drivers. We found that when bullying or teasing occurred when an adult was present, the adult did not intervene 75 percent of the time. To the children, it appeared that the incident was ignored. But often, adults don’t deal with bullying and teasing because they don’t know how. We offer adults strategies that help them intervene appropriately.

    We also help children understand that they shouldn’t just stand by when someone is being bullied. Our approach teaches them that while they shouldn’t put themselves in harm’s way, they should “do the right thing” — say something or get an adult to help.

    How has this approach worked?

    We found that after working with everyone — teachers, parents and children — adults did a complete turnaround and now intervened appropriately 75 percent of the time. Bullying and teasing incidents were down by a third. The results were the same in various school settings. So it works.

    If there’s a lot of bullying and teasing, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. Many teachers tell us that addressing bullying and teasing proactively creates more time for learning because of the change in the classroom environment.

    What’s the next step?

    Cyberbullying has taken the problem to a completely different level. If you’re a target, you can’t even be safe at home because the bullying is on the Web. Children have access to technology at younger ages, such as the third-grader with a cell phone or the young child playing games on an iPad. We’re beginning to talk with teachers, parents and children to develop age-appropriate strategies to address cyberbullying. Technology is part of their world, and they need to be able to navigate it safely.