Youth sexual and reproductive health and rights

  • Johnson, Vicky (PI)

Project Details


This project examined how youth sexual and reproductive health and rights are realised internationally, specifically looking at how context affects the translation of concepts in four country case studies in West and East Africa, South Asia and Central America. We developed and proposed an alternative model for youth programming within International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) youth programming.

Key research questions focused on how change happens from the perspective of young women and men. We also considered whether strategies, including education, services and advocacy were successful and for whom they worked and in which context.

Young peer educators identified key issues; they conducted qualitative participatory research, using photos with peers and community members to develop and tell critical stories of change. After supported analysis, they presented their findings and recommendations to local and national decision-makers.

Youth-led research was analysed alongside additional interviews carried out by the research leader and a local facilitator. Cross-case analysis fed into theoretical discussion and reconceptualising youth programming internationally.

The research project aimed to:

> work with an international NGO to realise youth sexual rights and improve young people’s access to sexual health resources in developing countries
> improve understanding about the different cultural contexts of sexual health education
> give a voice to marginalised young people including those working in hard labour, sex workers and transsexuals
> train young peer educators to carry out their own research
> reconceptualise youth programming to put young people’s views at the centre.

Key findings

Teachers need support to explain beyond the biological side of sexual health and address some of the more culturally sensitive elements of sexual rights, including addressing emotions, life skills, gender, diversity and other social factors that influence behaviour, attitudes and choice.

Findings from the case study in Nepal were instructive. Major barriers to progress in realising young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHRs) and effective comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) were attitudes and behaviour of adults within local communities, especially those uneducated and living remotely in deprived rural areas. Cultural and religious beliefs also countered progress in sexuality education and messages about safe sexual practices.

Teachers in local schools in Kaski in Nepal were embarrassed to talk about sexuality and relationships and did not have sufficient pedagogical approaches to address sensitive personal issues in school without additional CSE training, including games, visual, interactive and multi-media approaches.

To promote sustainability, networks including IPPF’s Member Association (MA), have advocated the national teacher training college and Ministry of Education incorporate CSE into the national curriculum, fitting with the rights-based rhetoric of the Maoist coalition government.

Inductive theorising across cases has suggested a complimentary socio-ecological model placing young people at the centre, with attention to safe participatory spaces and increased understanding of local socio-cultural and political/policy contexts. This chimes with recent findings during re-visits to children’s services, youth and community programmes in Nepal and the UK in which a change-scape model based on socio-ecological theories was developed (Johnson 2011).

Globally, this research is informing models of youth programming, building on IPPF’s ‘triangle approach’ of youth-friendly services, advocacy and education by cross-cutting them with youth participation, gender and partnership (IPPF, 2008). IPPF works in 172 countries to empower vulnerable men, women and young people and their global offices are committed to rolling this re-conceptualisation of youth programming across their programmes.

Quotes and evidence provided by the global IPPF office, the South Asia Regional office and IPPF’s member association of Nepal were included in an impact case study developed by the Education Research Centre for the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

In addition, Dr Vicky Johnson was engaged in conducting follow-up research for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). She provided guidance on implementation of the reconceptualised framework for youth programming and linking education to other services to realise sexual health rights, demonstrating our commitment to turn research into policy and implementation in order to change lives.
Effective start/end date1/01/1230/06/13


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