Sexual coercion and abuse are also common for young women, and the majority of young people aren’t educated on the use and benefits of contraception. Health and sexuality are not topics of discussion among youth and their parents, and financial worries often take precedence over health and well-being, particularly for young women.
These are among the learnings that World Renew and partners gleaned from local residents in 2013 when beginning a four-year project working with youth in 71 communities throughout Senegal and Nigeria.
Many girls in Senegal and Nigeria, particularly those who leave school early, have limited abilities to contribute to the household income, and so their families have economic and social motivations to marry them off early.
By establishing a framework for community education and leadership, however, World Renew and partners engaged more than 9,200 young people over the last four years, educating them on reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, and STIs. Through the formation of local neighbor and parent groups, the project also engaged parents, community leaders, and religious leaders in discussions of early and forced marriage and early and pre-marital pregnancy.
Many girls in Senegal and Nigeria, particularly those who leave school early, have limited abilities to contribute to the household income, and so their families have economic and social motivations to marry them off early. For this reason, World Renew also focused on vocational and literacy training for young women, to reduce the economic vulnerability of girls in hopes of postponing marriage and childbearing.
The results of the project, which wrapped up in April 2017, were inspiring. World Renew and its partners have seen progress and improvements in each of the issues the program aimed to address: adolescent health, safety and security, and literacy and vocational training. But the most beautiful changes are those seen in the individual lives of the young people who participated in the project:
Fatou Bintou Fall, one of the Senegalese participants, shared that her participation in the project gave her the skills to persuade her parents that she should not be given in marriage before the age of 22.
Peace, trained as a peer educator through the program in the Benue State of Nigeria, noted, “I learned a lot from this program about my health rights. I’m confident to say no to sexual advances with my voice, body, and action.”
We are grateful for the work that God has begun in Senegal and Nigeria, and there is still more progress to be made. World Renew is continuing this project on a smaller scale throughout 2017 and 2018. The Adolescent Healthy Training Kit will also be available in the new Gift Catalog this year, and your support will be critical as we continue to promote positive change in these communities.
Keep young women like Fatou and Peace in your prayers as we work together to improve the safety, security, and health of young women and men throughout the region.
To view the full report of the Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights Project, visit this link.