Youth

  • Many of us who spend our time in the youth sexual and reproductive health (YSRH) world don’t often cross paths with those in the business of economic empowerment and livelihoods programs for young people. Although both worlds are aware of the converging paths, funding streams generally keep us operating on parallel roads. Therefore, I was pleased to facilitate a panel session this morning at the conference: “Exploring the Intersection of Adolescent Girls’ Reproductive Health and Economic Empowerment.” During a lively session, panelists shared their experiences with both issues for girls. Some of the themes were:

    • Even though we are aware of the problem, the data on SRH and economic empowerment for girls, taken together for developing countries, is shocking. The rates of HIV, maternal mortality and morbidity, poverty and isolation paint a dismal picture for girls.
    • Programs that target girls and adults in the community, with messages on both SRH and economic empowerment, are showing some successes. There’s more to learn, but results are encouraging.
    • Models that incorporate peer education and work with girls on SRH and economic empowerment show positive results: the Tesfa program led by the International Center for Research on Women, the Siyakha Nentsha program in South Africa led by Population Council, and a program by Restless Development in Northern Uganda all included a peer education component.
    • Reducing social isolation seems key for increasing both SRH and economic outcomes for girls. Girls need access to other girls for many reasons, but importantly, to give them an outlet to talk about themselves: their ideas, dreams and goals.
    • It’s important to work with the adults, not just the girls. Teachers, parents and faith leaders all play roles in girls’ lives, and we need to get them on board with difficult topics. Sex and money are not easy to discuss with young people, and the adults need to build their skills to do it.

    Today’s session initiated some vital discussion about next steps. It’s my hope that the two worlds of SRH and economic empowerment for young people will start to cross more often and begin to operate more closely together. This year’s conference is an encouraging step toward that. Look for more information on this topic, including a research brief and e-forum, by visiting the Interagency Youth Working Group website.

  • How do you target young people effectively? Start by knowing how they spend their time.

    Understanding how children and youth spend their time is crucial for designing effective development interventions that improve their well-being. Child time-use studies provide a tested way of shedding light on this essential topic. Perception of time varies by culture, gender, and age; youth perceive time differently than adults. The value attributed to how youth spend their time often differs among cultures. For example, in many societies girls tend to engage in home-based, non-economic chores, while boys engage in economic labor away from home. Economic labor is often more highly valued than the home-based labor, profoundly affecting how girls and boys perceive themselves and their value and place within the household. The interdependence of people within the household and the value placed on their work (at home, away from home, economic or not) influences well-being. Young people often value work in the same way they perceive that their parents do.

    Knowing where youth are and when

    When designing youth-focused programming, one key step is to understand where the target beneficiaries are throughout the day, so as to know when and where to engage them. Some labor youth engage in is designed to limit their autonomy (“keep them busy and out of trouble”).Other activities, despite being labeled as labor, provide outlets for young people to interact with people their own age with limited or no supervision. Fetching water or going to the market are two common examples. How the target beneficiaries value their time and perceive their freedom to make choices (personal agency) will affect their interest, willingness and ability to partake of project activities designed to benefit them.

    The best source of information about time-use is the youth themselves. Children as young as eight can work together in groups to describe how they spend their time. With youth groups, a facilitator can provide a framework and instructions before stepping away to provide the youth space for private discussion.

    Tools for measuring time-use

    While there are several time-use tools, a quick, efficient tool for measuring how youth spend their time is through participatory rapid appraisals, which use mapping and day/time grids and photos or drawings of places and activities. The STRIVE program has employed this tool successfully in the Philippines with children from households engaged in seaweed farming and weaving. In about one hour, you can understand:

    • Where youth are and when
    • The routes and means of transportation between locations/activities
    • Where and when you might locate your intervention
    • Where safety might be an issue
    • How your target beneficiaries perceive time and value their current activities

    For more information on the importance of child time-use studies, see Ben-Arieh, A. & A. Ofir (2002) Time for (More) Time-Use Studies: Studying the Daily Activities of Children. Childhood, 9(2), 225-248.

  • Increasing transparency and participation in the 2012 Senegalese Presidential Election

    International media coverage paints a bleak picture of how fair, open and representative many recent presidential elections have been. Thanks to Programme Gouvernance et Paix (PGP), an FHI 360-led program funded by USAID, the 2012 presidential election in Senegal saw increased transparency and also increased participation from women and youth.

    Senegal is an island of stability in a tumultuous region. Peace and democracy in Senegal have helped it become a hub for regional and international organizations that work in West Africa. And though the country has a long democratic history, there had been a regression in democratic indicators over the last ten years. FHI 360 teamed with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) to support the electoral process in Senegal.

    Before the election occurred, PGP launched a civic awareness campaign that increased voter registration by 120% in Grand Yoff, a working-class suburb of 200,000 in Dakar. This initiative worked with women’s groups and youth organizations to boost voter registration in two underrepresented demographics. The project’s daily dialogue radio campaign was so successful that AFIA FM, one of the 17 implementing stations, incorporated it as a permanent fixture.

    Beyond simply helping the public monitor the election, PGP took proactive steps to increase transparency in the pre-election period. PGP experts worked with leaders of both opposition and ruling parties to amend the election code. Negotiations reached consensus on more than 85% of issues. As a result of these negotiations, a single ballot was approved and a gender parity article was inserted. The next legislative election will, for the first time, provide gender and religious parity in the country’s General Assembly.

    Working closely with print media, PGP trained journalists to monitor elections and provide objective coverage. As a result, those reporters published more than 30 election-related articles in prominent newspapers. Youth and female journalists trained through PGP interviewed presidential candidates about issues important to their respective demographics. Subsequent monitoring by journalists and interested constituencies has confirmed that Macky Sall, the current president, is adhering to the promises he made during these interviews.

    PGP also coordinated a “situation room,” which connected election observers to a centralized technical center. This initiative, funded by USAID and implemented by local CSOs, deployed more than 1,500 election observers for each round of elections. Utilizing the mapping technology of partner OneWorldUK, the program facilitated the first real-time monitoring of a Senegalese election.

    This program exemplifies the FHI 360 tagline, The Science of Improving Lives. We know the context in which we operate — the key actors, stakeholders and issues. We used an evidence-based approach to deliver an integrated solution with measurable impacts.

  • The Stories Behind the Statistics

    “The Stories Behind the Statistics” is a series put together for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s blog “Impatient Optimists” by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG). The IYWG, housed here at FHI 360, provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people. The following posts were originally posted on “Impatient Optimists” and are reposted here with permission. All photos courtesy of the Gates Foundation.


    • Young People and HIV

      Last August, during World Youth Day in Madrid, I was conducting outreach to encourage Catholic youth to use condoms. It was there that I heard one of the most frightening things ever: One young man told me that an HIV-positive person had no right to have sex...

      Read More
    • Family Planning for Young Women

      I lead a support group for mothers ages 12-19, in Kenya. Most of the mothers I work with are out-of-school youth; many live on the streets, work in the informal economy, or are orphaned. As a part of our support program, we provide weekly peer-to-peer sessions focusing on uptake of antenatal care...

      Read More
    • Youth Reproductive and Sexual Health

      By the end of today, 2,500 young people will become infected with HIV and 1,400 girls and women will die in childbirth...

      Read More