The world now has the largest generation of young people in history: more than 1.2 billion people between 10 and 19 years old,
many of them very poor, out of school, and vulnerable. For most young people, sexual activity begins during adolescence, often under pressure from peers or even adults, and many do not have the information and autonomy needed to embark on safe, fulfilling sexual relationships, and to prevent an unintended pregnancy. An unwanted pregnancy can limit a young woman's possibilities in countless ways — ending her education prematurely, restricting her opportunities for rewarding work, and sentencing her and her children to a life of poverty — and too often has consequences that are serious and even fatal: Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality for 15-19 year old girls in developing countries.

For young people, issues around sexuality and reproductive health present a world of challenges. Young people often face significant barriers — including social norms, cultural taboos that deny adolescent sexuality, and ineffective or inaccessible education and health care systems — to accessing the information and services they need in order to excercise their rights and embark on safe, healthy, and fulfilling adult lives.

Training peer educators

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. FCI programs in the capital, Bamako, and in Mopti, a port city on the Niger River, have targeted young workers — who don’t benefit from school-based programs — with information on reproductive health, contraception, and HIV prevention. In partnership with national health, youth, and education ministries and with local NGOs, we conduct peer education with apprentices, laborers, street vendors, sex workers, and domestic workers. Through these programs, FCI has trained 150 peer-to-peer educators and reached 22,000 young people with crucial information.

In related projects in a number of countries, FCI works to educate and motivate religious authorities, employers, and other community leaders who can influence the cultural values and behaviors of adolescents to better understand their need for clear, accurate, empowering information about  sexuality and reproductive health. FCI has also developed a curriculum to help parents talk with their teenagers about sexual and reproductive health issues, for use in West African countries where a conservative religious culture often limits young people’s exposure to critical information on health and sexuality.

Learn more about FCI's peer education program in Mopti, Mali

Sharing best practices and policies

The World Health Organization has invited FCI to be its key advocacy partner in a project to build awareness and promote programming on effective, evidence-based interventions to prevent early pregnancies, coerced sex, unsafe abortions (and related deaths), and deaths during pregnancy and during and after childbirth among adolescents from low and middle-income countries. After conducting systematic review of the evidence in 2010 and 2011, WHO developed and published new guidelines on Preventing early pregnancy and poor reproductive outcomes among adolescents in developing countries.  In 2012, WHO and UNFPA engaged FCI to design and produce a Spanish-language version of the guidelines, and to develop a toolkit for use by advocates in promoting the dissemination of the guidelines among policy, program, and technical audiences at the global, regional, and national levels, as well as the implementation of the guidelines' key recommendations. The toolkit is available in English, French, and Spanish.

Photo credit: Joey O'LoughlinIn response to increasing adolescent pregnancy rates in the Andean region of South America, FCI is a strategic partner with UNFPA, the Ministries of Health and Youth, and youth networks in six Andean countries (Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia) in the Plan Andino -- the Plan to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy in the Andean Region. FCI studied 100 programs from across Latin America, and developed a tool to help health teams and youth groups identify, document, and share their programs using a “best practices” lens, for potential replication and scale-up.

Since 2008, FCI-Mali has been working closely with government ministries to create a national strategic plan for adolescent health, and 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.

FCI also acts as host organization for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC),an alliance of non-governmental organizations working to expand access to emergency contraception (EC), with a focus on developing countries.

Read about FCI's work on the Plan Andino and other regional teen pregnancy efforts

Learn about our policy work in Mali

Providing crucial information

In the mid-1990s, FCI’s partners in Africa identified a strong need to focus on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people, to prevent and manage unintended pregnancy, and to slow the spread of HIV. In response, we worked with public health sector and NGO partners to develop materials for adolescents — first in English-speaking Africa, and subsequently adapted for young people in other parts of Africa, in Latin America, and in the Caribbean. Our youth-focused materials have been adapted to local contexts and translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Haitian Creole, Swahili, and a range of other African languages. They are being used in more than 30 countries, and have reached tens of thousands of adolescents around the world. They have brought new evidence-based, participatory, rights-focused ways of approaching work with young people to health care workers, educators, and community leaders. And our strategies for helping health care workers and facilities to be more “youth friendly” in providing young people with information and supplies to prevent pregnancy and infection have been adopted by youth-serving partners in a range of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in East and West Africa. 

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FCI's youth-focused materials include:

You, Your Life, Your Dreams helps young people make informed decisions about their sexual lives. Designed for young people and for educators who work with them, it provides accessible, objective, and urgently-needed information on a broad range of sexual and reproductive health issues, and is available in several languages and many different versions, reflecting the regional contexts and the unique challenges facing adolescents in East and West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Get the Facts is used in one-on-one or group discussions about sexuality, peer pressure, and healthy relationships. A flipchart, it can be used in low-resource settings, and has been distributed in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and French in many Latin American and African countries.

Curriculum de Formation des Parents: Communication avec les Enfants, Adolescent(e)s et Jeunes en matière de Santé Sexuelle et Reproductive (Curriculum for Training Parents: Communicating with Children, Adolescents, and Young People about Sexual and Reproductive Health) developed by FCI-Mali in collaboration with the Malian Ministry of Health, provides facilitators with a curriculum for helping parents, through small group workshops, to learn to talk with their children and adolescents about contraception and other reproductive health issues. It is available in French, Arabic, and Bambara (Bamanankan), Mali’s three most common languages.

FCI-Mali expands sexual health program for young people

In Mopti, a port city located along the Niger River in Mali, West Africa, many young people leave school at a young age, taking casual work as mechanics, salespeople, and maids. They have little or no access to reliable information on sexual and reproductive health, increasing their risk of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy. In November 2010, FCI staff trained 46 girls and boys as peer educators, who then organized hundreds of group meetings, home visits, and counseling sessions. They shared accurate, critically important information, distributed condoms, and reached more than 2,000 young people in Mopti. During December, FCI, our partners, and the peer educators mounted an awareness campaign in communities along the Niger River, reaching another 2,300 youths in seven isolated villages. Read more...

Renewed efforts to prevent teen pregnancy from Andean governments

Meeting in October 2010 in Caracas, Venezuela, Ministers of Health representing countries in the Andean region of South America renewed their governments’ commitment to reducing teen pregnancy. They resolved to continue working together to redress the tragedy of maternal mortality among adolescents, particularly in indigenous communities; to focus on preventing teen pregnancy in the 10-14 age group; and to address the problem of violence and sexual abuse among teens. Since 2008, and with the support of the United Nations Population Fund—UNFPA, FCI has been a technical partner in the implementation of the Plan Andino (Plan to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy in the Andean Region), fostering access to information and exchange of resources and strengthening mechanisms for youth participation in the shaping of public policies.

Arming young people in Mali with urgently-needed information

Since 2008, FCI-Mali has been working closely with government ministries to create a national strategic plan for adolescent health. In late June 2010, 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. Read more...







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