Globally, adolescent and young people are in need of urgent support to safeguard their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in view of high rates of new HIV infections among this target group, early and unintended pregnancies, and other legal and societal barriers to accessing services. In conflict-prone and fragile contexts, women and young girls in particular are highly vulnerable. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) alone, 28% of young women aged 19-24 have experienced sexual violence.
For four years (2016-2020), the JeuneS3 (Santé, Sécurité, Sexualité) programme, which was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ensured that young people were able to make informed choices about their SRHR through four intervention areas: youth voice and participation; knowledge and skills; responsive services and enabling environment and respect of rights.
Swiss TPH led the operations research component of the JeuneS3 programme across all countries, as well as the technical oversight for the implementation of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in DRC.
JeuneS3 reached over 45,000 young people in schools and more than 10,000 young people out of schools in the DRC with accurate information on sexual and reproductive health, including the most marginalized and vulnerable populations (especially girls between the ages of 10 and 14).
“It was incredibly rewarding to work with our partners to build on our expertise in adolescent health and contribute towards a greater awareness of SRHR. The methods and approaches of involving young people and their voices in driving the direction and magnitude of the programme has proven to be very successful with the progress we have made in DRC,’’ said Florence Secula, Social Development Specialist, Swiss TPH.
Life Skills Education in schools and in “safe spaces”
Swiss TPH assisted national and local partners to roll out the Life Skills Education programme by providing teacher training and teaching materials for 680 teachers in 160 schools.
Out-of-school youth were reached in 120 safe spaces where trained peer educators facilitated CSE. Safe spaces offered the possibility for young people to gather and exchange on issues important to them in a safe environment where confidentiality was ensured.
“By working closely with teachers, parents, youth-led organisations and the larger communities, we were able to ensure the local acceptability of the curriculum,” said Ernest Mendy, Swiss TPH project coordinator in DRC. “Collaborative learning activities accompanied by participatory research assessed the effectiveness of CSE in raising knowledge and changing social norms, particularly in relation to inequitable gender roles.”
Positive change for and by young people
Young people’s meaningful participation in all aspects of prioritising, planning and action was a mainstay throughout JeuneS3. The positive reputation of the programme extended the programme’s circle of influence beyond programme implementation.
“JeuneS3 has left in its wake strong, informed and motivated young leaders who will carry on the work of the programme to enact more impactful changes in young people’s lives and their rights to quality SRH information,” said Adriane Martin Hilber, Senior Project Leader, Swiss TPH.
Women, Children and Adolescent Health
In addition to the JeuneS3 project, Swiss TPH has a track record of successful implementation of projects related to child and adolescent health such as ACT!2030, the evaluation of the ESA Commitment and nutrition action research. Through research engagement, technical support and policy advice, Swiss TPH supports partners in the global youth ecosystem by generating evidence of youth-led and youth serving programmes on impactful approaches to adolescent health.