Adolescents and Young People
LAWS AND POLICIES. Over 90 per cent of countries
responding to the 2003 UNFPA global survey reported
having taken measures to address adolescent reproductive
health and rights through policies, laws or
programmes.(5) For instance, a law in Panama guarantees
the rights of pregnant adolescents to remain in
school and receive comprehensive reproductive health
care. In Ecuador, a new code on children and adolescents
enumerates rights to education, information
and reproductive health and integrity.(6) Sierra Leone
has established a national youth policy designed to
mainstream youth initiatives concerns as central
inputs to development policies and programmes.
Nepalís current poverty reduction plan puts priority
on adolescent health and education.(7)
HEALTH EDUCATION. Nearly all countries have introduced
health education, including life skills, into
school curricula (primarily in secondary education)
and programmes designed for out-of-school youth.
Some also report using peer education to reach youth
both in and out of school. Many have introduced programmes
to reach those not in school through clubs,
camps and workshops, and a number are using the
mass media to reach a range of youth with reproductive
In Bolivia, with UNFPA support, the Ministry
of Health established a programme for indigenous
young women that combines access to reproductive
health services, literacy skills in Spanish and indigenous
languages, and actions to improve self-esteem.
UNESCO awarded it the International Literacy Prize
SERVICES. Ninety per cent of countries responding
have taken action to provide adolescents with access
to reproductive health care. Many have established
youth-friendly services designed specifically for young
people. Most of these are on a small scale and many are
run by NGOs. Vast needs remain. Even where services
are available, adolescents may face barriers, including
lack of information, stigma, family opposition, negative
provider attitudes, fear their confidentiality will
be violated, and misconceptions about the safety and
side effects of contraceptive methods.
TRAINING, LIFE SKILLS AND PARTICIPATION. A
number of countries are providing young people with
training, employment and life skills education, and
most reported actions to promote youth participation
in policy and programme development through
advisory councils or informal consultation through
workshops and dialogue with youth organizations.
Costa Rica has launched a groundbreaking initiative
to involve young people in developing a national
youth policy through a newly established National
Youth Council supported by UNFPA.(9)
CONSTRAINTS. Ten years after the ICPD, providing
reproductive health information and services for
adolescents is still controversial in some countries.
There is wide recognition that adolescents need to be
empowered to abstain from sex as a personal choice,
or to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies
and HIV/AIDS and other STIs if sexually active.
Mismatches between needs and care are compounded
because adolescents often do not trust health professionals,
particularly in crowded government-run
clinics, and perceive providers as judgemental and
lacking respect for the fundamentals of good care
provision, including confidentiality and privacy.