With Me, Not For Me

By Emily Sullivan, Adolescent and Youth Engagement Manager, Family Planning 2020 Secretariat

From global to local, the FP2020 community is increasingly focused on meeting the contraceptive needs of adolescents and youth. But are we making progress? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

Nearly all 42 country government commitments to FP2020 explicitly recognize the importance of reaching young people with the services and information they need. Using FP2020 as a galvanizing tool to accelerate progress, governments and local civil societies (including youth-led organizations) are working to provide young girls with the contraceptives they want and need to take control over their futures.

“FP2020 looks forward to sharing results from such initiatives, along with lessons learned from our own experiences facilitating exchange among countries, so we can continue to improve our collective work. Together, we can ensure that when a young girl creates a plan for her life, she isn’t derailed by an unexpected pregnancy.” — Emily Sullivan, Adolescent and Youth Engagement Manager, Family Planning 2020 Secretariat

FP2020 commitments vary based on country context and national priorities. Ethiopia pledged to reduce the unmet need for family planning among 15 to 19-year-olds. Bangladesh committed to fully operationalize its new national adolescent health strategy with a special focus on ensuring that adolescents have access to the widest range of contraceptives possible. And Togo promised that comprehensive sex education will be implemented in all schools by 2022. These efforts demonstrate that country partners are taking important steps toward fulfilling young people’s unique needs and FP2020 goals.

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To keep up the momentum, country leaders—including young leaders—are sharing lessons. One avenue for this exchange is through the FP2020 partnership. When a country government formally makes an FP2020 commitment, focal points are identified within each country from donor, government, and civil society institutions. This helps facilitate valuable cross-partner exchange. For example, during a recent FP2020 regional focal point workshop in Cameroon, youth representatives from 15 Francophone countries joined country leaders in helping shape action plans based on their countries’ commitments, costed implementation plans, and other strategies. These action plans incorporate young people’s perspective and serve as a tool for prioritization over an 18-month period. These plans are available on FP2020 country webpages, so that advocates can track and share progress. Through this workshop, in addition to ongoing webinars and calls, country partners can share experiences on youth-focused topics such as preventing rapid repeat pregnancy, providing contraception via school-based referral systems, and/or using data for advocacy. This interchange continues to demonstrate the value of partner collaboration—with young people, for young people—to understand and address gaps.

Progress on adolescents and youth is inconsistent and often slow, but it is getting better. Together, we have shifted the conversation from: “Why should we focus on young people?” to “How do we effectively work with young people to improve their wellbeing?” This is a dramatic change. Initiatives like PSI’s Adolescents 360 demonstrate that partnering with young people enhances the quality of programmatic findings and improves the impact on the sexual and reproductive health of youth.

FP2020 looks forward to sharing results from such initiatives, along with lessons learned from our own experiences facilitating exchange among countries, so we can continue to improve our collective work. Together, we can ensure that when a young girl creates a plan for her life, she isn’t derailed by an unexpected pregnancy.

This article first ran in PSI’s Impact Magazine No. 23. To read the full issue, click here.

Adolescents 360 (A360) is a four-and-a-half year initiative co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The project is led by Population Services International (PSI) together with IDEO.org, University of California at Berkeley Center on the Developing Adolescent, the Society for Family Health Nigeria, and Triggerise. The project is being delivered in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, in partnership with local governments, local organizations, and local technology and marketing firms. In Tanzania, A360 is building on an investment and talent from philanthropist and design thinker Pam Scott.