Giving Priority to Adolescents
Even where good policies and laws have been developed, implementation has been slow and difficult. Programmes addressing restrictive social norms and promoting behaviour change require advocacy efforts to gain the active involvement of communities and reflect their local concerns, values and priorities.
Community mobilization efforts target opinion makers to encourage a more favourable climate for project implementation, and also seek to involve them in programme definition and design. This is a dynamic process that aims to ascertain the needs and interests of broad sectors of the community. Community members involved in this way become agents of social change themselves, helping to minimize opposition while advancing policy and programme goals.(14)
A number of youth programmes have successfully used a community mobilization approach known as Participatory Learning for Action. PLA involves people in examining their own situations and devising solutions to the challenges they face.
A PLA in Lusaka, Zambia, was used to design an adolescent reproductive health programme including youth-friendly services, peer counsellors and community-based distribution of contraceptives.(15) In Cambodia, a PLA in a garment factory employed a large number of young workers to develop a curriculum for a workplace programme on reproductive health.(16)
In Burkina Faso, a community participation project led by a national NGO strengthened three youth associations based in rural communities. In turn, these groups engaged community members, especially youth, in designing community-based programmes to address key reproductive health issues of concern to them.(17) The result was improved knowledge of sexual and reproductive health, increased ability to discuss sexuality issues openly, better negotiation skills for condom use, and improved access to contraception.
The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee has built community support for adolescent development, including delayed marriage, by providing a credit programme designed in response to local perceived needs.(18)
Community mobilization is particularly effective when undertaken by networks of NGOs addressing specific social groups that can work together, share lessons and skills learned, and pool resources.