Towards a Better Future: Improving Educational and Health Outcomes for Young Girls in Southern Africa
Launched in 2006 by the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), Towards a Better Future: Improving Educational and Health Outcomes for Young Girls in Southern Africa is a project to
The Southern Africa Towards a Better Future programme is designed around CEDPA's youth development framework, the Better Life Options and Opportunities Model (BLOOM). The BLOOM approach is designed to build self-confidence and self-esteem in adolescents using a non-formal education curricula entitled Choose a Future! Issues and Options for Adolescent Girls, which has been used by CEDPA worldwide and adapted to the context of southern Africa.
In 2006, South African partners identified three areas as having an impact on girls' educational outcomes: teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, and substance abuse. CEDPA, in conjunction with the South African Girl Child Alliance, conducted workshops with South African partners and their stakeholders to build their capacity in these areas in order to improve delivery of their programmes for girls. Evaluation workshops were conducted with these partners in order to reflect on how they had used the information and materials from the workshops, exchange information on the challenges they encountered when facilitating sessions using the new materials, and discuss solutions to these challenges. Residential workshops were then held with partners and girls from their programmes. The purpose of these workshops was to provide partner staff with training on how to effectively facilitate sessions with young girls. In addition, the workshops were intended as a space that was conducive to the discussion of issues and topics that are important to the girls.
Following the initial activities in South Africa, a needs assessment was carried out in early 2007 to adapt the curriculum and programme to the southern African context. This included: assessing the results of the workshops in South Africa; conducting a desk review focusing on the educational trajectories for girls in these three countries beyond primary school; and exploring the social and reproductive health factors experienced by girls that are related to education outcomes. Focus groups with implementing partners in Lesotho and Swaziland provided additional information about problems girls encounter in these countries. Results of these activities shaped a 5-day curriculum adaptation workshop held in June 2007 with partners and technical experts.
The adapted curriculum contains 14 modules covering 114 hours and focuses on: setting goals and values; building communication skills; building healthy peer and family relationships; supporting community participation; and the topics of puberty, reproductive health, gender-based violence, and the environment. Ubuntu, a traditional African philosophy focusing on respect and compassion for others, has also been incorporated into the adaptation. CEDPA conducted the first round of facilitator training with partners prior to implementation. A total of 108 facilitators were trained, including peer educators, community health-care workers, and teachers, who lead girls in discussion groups and participatory activities.
The programme also includes outreach activities designed to build family and community support for girls' education. According to the organisers, it is implemented and designed hand-in-hand with local partners, building the capacity of communities to meet the educational challenge of their next generation of leaders.
Education, Girls, Gender.
According to CEDPA, of school-aged children estimated to be out of school, 53% (61.6 million) are girls. Primary school enrolment rates for girls in eastern and southern Africa are reported at 62%. However, in secondary schools, girls' participation plummets, with the enrolment rate at only 24%.
CEDPA says that as of 2008, a total of 528 girls had graduated from the Towards a Better Future programme. CEDPA conducted a baseline and endline survey of a sample of girls from three sites, and initial results were positive. Participants showed statistically significant gains in almost all of the attitudes and knowledge measured. Swazi girls in the programme rated their quality of communication with parents and other family members 34% higher at endline than at baseline, and their reproductive health knowledge improved by 20%.
CEDPA; South African Girl Child Alliance; Cape Flats and Soweto YMCAs; Student Christian Movement in Lesotho; and Manzini Youth Care.
CEDPA e-Newsletter from May 28 2009; and CEDPA website and Reaching Out to Young Girls in Southern Africa: Towards a Better Future [PDF] - both accessed on January 15 2010.
Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women and Adolescent Girls Living with HIV: Guidance for Health Managers, Health Workers and Activists
This manual - coordinated by EngenderHealth, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation - contains recommendations for creating programmes that protect and pro
UNESCO HIV and AIDS Education Clearinghouse, Youth InfoNet 60, September 16 2009.
Straight Talk Foundation
This 80-page evaluation, published by Straight Talk Foundation (STF), presents a mid-term review of the organisation's five year Strategic Plan (SP) for 2006 - 2010, which committed STF to increasing
Scribd website on December 2 2009.
Evaluating Programs Reaching Very Young Adolescents: Experiences and Lessons from My Changing Body, A Body Literacy and Fertility Awareness Course
Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH)
This 38-slide presentation from the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, United States (US) was presented at the
IRH E-blast, November 2009.
Sister to Sister: USAID-funded Drug Demand Reduction Program in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the Ferghana Valley Region of Kyrgyzstan
Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI)
Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) Express, May 29 2009.
Ethical Issues in Using Participatory Video in Addressing Gender Violence in and Around Schools: The Challenges of Representation
Human Sciences Research Council (Moletsane); University of KwaZulu-Natal (Moletsane/Stuart/Taylor/Mitchell); McGill University, Canada (Mitchell/Walsh)
Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC) website on September 30 2009.
Early Sexual Debut, Sexual Violence, and Sexual Risk-Taking among Pregnant Adolescents and Their Peers in Jamaica and Uganda
Hope Enterprises - Jamaica (Wedderburn), Rakai Health Sciences Program - Uganda (Wagman), FHI, Research - North Carolina, US (Waszak Geary, Baumgartner, Toms Tucker, Johnson)
The Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) Express e-bulletin on June 26 2009.
Save the Children
This case study examines a communication initiative implemented by Save the Children (SC) to improve the health of Malawian women aged 10 to 24 and their children in the southern Mangochi district thr
Email from Mia Foreman to The Communication Initiative on August 7 2009.
In 1999, Save the Children (SC) launched a 5-year programme that used an array of approaches to improve the reproductive and sexual health of people aged 10 to 25 in the southern Mangochi district of Malawi.
SC's ARSH Malawi programming worked with young people, their families, and communities to educate youth about reproduction and health, to build the teens' skills in decision-making and life choices, and to provide the means to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. But, with help from USAID and its own resources, SC also worked with young women who were already mothers. In line with SC's approach to ARSH, reaching out to teen mothers was understood to involve recognising the whole person - a mother's physical, mental, and social health. SC chose to reach out to teen mothers primarily as teens, with similar needs and interests as their peers, and secondarily as mothers and wives.
Specifically, SC set up Teen Mothers Clubs (TMCs) to provide young mothers with a venue in which to discuss their common concerns - openly and without stigma - and to get support from fellow teen mothers and friends. Each TMC met once or twice a week, with members facilitating their own meetings. Typical discussion topics in a TMC meeting: independence, self-reliance, and economic opportunity; self-esteem; return to school; domestic violence prevention and outreach; negotiating FP and condom use with a partner; benefits and side effects of FP use; safe motherhood and birth spacing; preventing STIs and HIV; and care of the newborn. The TMCs were also considered a convenient space for reaching teen mothers, who SC claims have higher unmet need for FP than their non-parent peers. Each club was linked to one or more local youth CBD agents who could provide FP information, advice, and methods, including oral contraceptives and condoms. Male outreach workers connected with husbands of teen mothers as a strategy to increase FP use and increase frequency of communication about FP.
TMC members linked their group meetings to outreach to other teenagers. Club members went door to door; performed music, dance, and drama; and participated in community meetings. "The main focus of our community outreach is to educate other adolescents about unwanted pregnancy and the difficulties of being a teen mother," explained one TMC member.
A key programme strategy was involving parents, community leaders, teachers, and chiefs - so-called "gatekeepers" due to their important role in youths' lives. In one such activity, a team of 4 gatekeepers, plus 2 in-school teen mothers and one teacher, raised awareness with community members and schoolgirls about the benefits of FP and the dangers of teen pregnancies. In one event, a Traditional Authority Chief stood in the presence of 5 village chiefs and more than 200 community members and advocated that parents should delay marrying off their daughters and instead keep them in school. SC also invited initiation counsellors - the women and men who guide children's initiation into adulthood - to attend an ARSH workshop where FP messages were developed and incorporated, along with HIV prevention practices, into messages passed on to initiates.
The above-described strategies were also reflected in SC's efforts to raise awareness about the Ministry of Education (MoE) policy on teen mothers' re-enrollment in school (see Key Points, below), the importance of re-enrollment, and young women's right to re-enroll. Community members and parents were encouraged to support mothers' education and learned of the benefits to the women, their children, and communities as a whole. Teachers and school officials also learned of the readmission policy and the importance of supporting teen mothers' return to and retention in school. Youth CBD agents also promoted return to school. SC staff visited and counselled some of the teen mothers, preparing them to be assertive and prevent pregnancies before achieving their educational goals. Further, SC worked with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the District Education Office, and secondary schools to locate financial assistance for young mothers wishing to re-enroll. Finally, project staff encouraged teens who had returned to school to participate actively in TMCs alongside those who had not, so that members could learn from each others' experience.
Girls and Women, Reproductive Health, Education.
Figures cited by SC indicate that Malawi's total fertility rate is high (5.6 children per woman) and contraceptive prevalence is low (28%). The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 15%, and young Malawian women are 3-5 times more likely than young men to be infected with HIV. Upwards of 20% of people aged 15 to 23 are HIV-positive. Even so, only 6% of sexually active 15- to 19-year-old women report using condoms.
Nearly 30% of Malawian girls aged 15 to 19 report being married, and one-third of adolescent women will have been pregnant or given birth by the time they reach 20. Most of these births occur within marriage or in union, yet pregnancy among unmarried teens has increased in recent years. Teen pregnancy is associated with poor health outcomes for woman and baby, but can also entail stigmatisation of young mothers, school dropout, and decreased likelihood that an adolescent will resume schooling after her baby is born. Traditionally, young women who are already mothers are expected to devote themselves wholly to their children and husbands, and this includes dropping out of school and ceasing to socialise with their peers.
In Malawi, 31% of girls complete primary school and 11% graduate from secondary school. Girls' dropout rate is higher than boys'; it is attributed to family responsibilities, early marriage, and pregnancy. In 1993, the Malawian MoE passed a law allowing teen mothers to return to school after the birth of a child. The policy dictates that a pregnant teen must write a letter withdrawing herself from school while she is pregnant. She must wait at least 6 months after the baby is born before reapplying for admission, at which time she must send two requests: one to the MoE and one to the school. She can be readmitted only once; if she drops out of school a second time she will be permanently expelled. SC found that most teachers, parents, and students were not aware of this policy. Young mothers in Mangochi rarely re-enrolled, and the few who tried reported discrimination and ridicule.
SC, with USAID funding.
"Reaching Out to Teen Mothers in Malawi" [PDF], forwarded by Mia Foreman to The Communication Initiative on August 7 2009; and email from Brad Kerner to The Communication Initiative on April 11 2013.