Comprehensive Programmes for Adolescents
Since the ICPD, creative partnerships have begun in several countries to establish comprehensive programmes combining behaviour change communication with the provision of youth-friendly services and advocacy for policy change. These multisectoral efforts have built on important earlier work by family planning associations and others. These programmes are still new, but their experiences are being evaluated and shared.
There have been many successes in partnering with adolescents, their families and communities to address their development, social participation and sexual and reproductive health needs. The task of formulating integrated and comprehensive life skills programmes for more adolescents is seen as the focus of a “second generation” of programme efforts.(1)
Programmes of the second generation are based on facts, consider the diversity of adolescents, select strategies that reflect boys’ and girls’ differentiated experiences, and are based on human rights and youth participation principles. They involve sectors other than the health sector to support the transition of adolescents into adulthood and their gaining the knowledge, skills, and opportunities. They stress responsible decision-making, positive peer and mentoring relationships and increased power and negotiating skills.
These are some examples of projects based on the principles of the second generation:
In 1999, the United Nations Foundation approved a multi-country initiative advanced by UNICEF and UNFPA (later involving WHO) to better address the developmental needs and participation rights of adolescents, with an emphasis on girls.
Thirteen countries are involved in this comprehensive, integrated approach: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Jordan, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Russian Federation, Senegal and Sao Tome and Principe. In most countries, all three coordinating UN agencies are involved in joint programming for adolescents (UNFPA is not active in this programme in China or Sao Tome and Principe).
Most countries now recognize that investing in and empowering women and girls is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to advance the development agenda. Though the specific activities in each country vary, all of the initiatives work towards some common goals to ensure that adolescent girls have the same rights and opportunities as boys.
At the core of this inter-agency programme are these fundamental building blocks:
- Creating an environment conducive to keeping girls in school through the secondary level; or at least ensure they are literate.
- Ensuring that the particular reproductive health needs of adolescents are addressed and youth-friendly services provided.
- Working with communities, including local political and religious leaders, to increase public awareness of the reproductive and sexual health issues affecting adolescents.
- Providing life skills and counselling so that adolescent girls are aware of their rights and know about available services.
- Developing vocational training and income-generating programmes for adolescent girls to increase their status, independence and opportunities.
- Mobilizing the support of decision makers at all levels to support programmes aimed at improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
- Contributing to equitable and sustainable development by reinforcing the capacity of national governments to engage girls in the social, economic and political life of the country.
These collective efforts are also contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls (Goal 3), by improving maternal health and well being (Goal 5) and by preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS (Goal 6).
Some examples from the field:
SENEGAL Some 10,000 girls and young women aged
15-24 from poor disadvantaged families in Dakar and Thies are the immediate beneficiaries of the project, Promoting the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls in Senegal. Through close links with communities and NGOs, girls are receiving comprehensive education, with an emphasis on gender and human rights. Perhaps most importantly, in the context of providing girls with livelihood skills and income-generation activities, girls now have access to youth-friendly reproductive and sexual health information and services.
BENIN Some 300 adolescents and young people, aged
15-24, are being trained in communications at the Multi-Media Centre in Cotonou. They are receiving comprehensive professional training in all aspects of radio and broadcasting and production, computer graphics, web site design and development, photography, videography, and magazine and newspaper writing and production. It is the only centre of its kind in French West Africa.
MONGOLIA More than 150,000 adolescent girls and boys read the quarterly newspaper Love, produced by a team of adolescent girls in Ulaan Bator. The newspaper is by far the most popular teen publication in the country. Its production is supervised under a contract with the Margaret Sanger Center, one of the project’s executing agencies. A distance education programme was implemented in cooperation with UNESCO and eight adolescent-friendly reproductive health clinics are being established across the country.
OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY The project Improving Adolescent Lives in Palestinian Society has mobilized local communities on the reproductive health needs of adolescents, especially girls. This has involved close collaboration with local media outlets. The project is also working to ensure that adolescents have access to appropriate reproductive health services and counselling in schools.