Arming young people in Mali with urgently-needed information
In Mali, where a majority of the population is under 25 years old, over 40% of all girls between 15 and 19 years old are pregnant or have already become mothers. Since 2008, FCI-Mali has been working closely with government ministries to create a national strategic plan for adolescent health. FCI has also worked innovatively to ensure young Malians’ access to the sexual and reproductive health information they need to embark on safe, productive, fulfilling adult lives.
In late June, FCI's National Director, Fatimata Kane, was part of an intensive, government-led effort to develop and test new curricula for training health care workers to provide comprehensive health services for young people, based on WHO’s global standards. Looking beyond the health system, FCI-Mali has worked over the past 2 years to train young peer educators to reach apprentices and other informal workers — using a curriculum based on FCI’s You, Your Life, Your Dreams — with information about their sexuality, their rights, and the assertiveness and communication skills needed to exercise them. The program also raised awareness and support among employers, religious leaders, and other influential adults, and has showed powerful results: a survey showed young people’s awareness about birth control rising from 45% to 72%, and employers’ knowledge about available HIV testing for their young employees went from 34% to 60%.
Working in partnership with the health, youth, and education ministries, FCI has also developed a curriculum to help parents communicate with their children about sensitive issues of sexual and reproductive health. After the successful launch of this French-language tool, it is being translated into Arabic and Bamanankan (the language of the Bambara people, spoken by an estimated 80% of Mali’s population), and plans are underway to create an illustrated flipchart version for lower-literacy parents, to train outreach workers, and to extend distribution of the curriculum into neighboring Burkina Faso.