The Communication for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU) engaged in a project in the Lira and Alebtong districts of Uganda to involve boys in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) through the use of interactive behaviour change communication (BCC) and information, education, and communication (IEC) approaches. The goal of the project was to increase access to SRH and rights (SRHR) information and services among 27,000 adolescents (both boys and girls) aged 13-19 years so that they might make informed decisions and avoid risky adolescent practices. CDFU also sought to empower caretakers with knowledge and skills to effectively communicate with adolescents on SRHR.
The community-based, peer-led intervention involves boy and girl pairs for every parish of the 7 sub-counties. 94 peer educators conducted individual and small-group discussions with their peers. The Jarawee Apron was worn by the facilitators; its purpose was to equip participants with facts about growing up, body changes including the menstrual cycle, etc. Interactive games such as the "hop, skip, and jump" were meant to be participatory and entertaining while also providing SRH and gender-based violence (GBV) information. These games sparked group discussions and triggered self-reflection and action and fostered possible solutions on GBV issues in participants' homes, schools, and communities. Another game, the sexual networks game, was a highly participatory tool designed to facilitate understanding of the concept of sexual networks, its consequences and how to take action. Its purpose was to stimulate individual introspection about their own behaviour, as well as to assess risk and intention to protect themselves. Flyers were provided for take-home use, with in-depth information. Dialogue sessions were held with secondary influencers: health providers, parents, and religious leaders.
In addition, radio talk shows were hosted by adolescents, health workers, and leaders. School competitions were held that focused on drama, art, and debate. Finally, information, counseling, and referral services were provided through a toll-free hotline (0800 200 600). Callers can ask about: family planning, child rights, GBV, teenage pregnancy, maternal health, alcohol use, sexuality, menstrual hygiene, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV and AIDS.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Adolescents, Gender
Statistics collected in Uganda in 2011 indicate that 47.3% of the population are adolescents. There are high rates of teenage pregnancy, and 87% of those surveyed had engaged in sexual activity - with contraceptive use at 27%. There is poor access to accurate, comprehensive adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) information/services. One participant in the peer-led discussions said: "I don't know why we boys were not told about menstruation. We used to laugh at girls when they 'spotted' their dresses. It is our right to know as we soon will have wives."
Reflecting on the project, CDFU says that youth take quicker actions as a result of the peer-led sessions. Self-reported actions taken as a result of project activities included: condom use at last sexual encounter (39.2%), consistency in condom use every time he or she had sex in the past 6 months (17.4%), communicates with parents (15%), participates in community activities (18.4%), stays faithful to one partner (22.2%), tested for HIV (29.3%), abstains from sex (60%). Adolescents' knowledge of risky sexual practices such as early marriage, early sex, abortion, unprotected/unsafe sex, and transactional/cross-generational sex improved from baseline to endline on all measures. CDFU claims that the involvement of boys enhanced dissemination and action on ASRHR information for both boys and girls and minimised missed opportunities that could have arisen from organising separate meetings for boys and girls. The innovation strengthened understanding and appreciation of each other's challenges, thus building a supportive culture.
CDFU, in partnership with Plan International Uganda & Plan International United Kingdom (UK).
"Involvement of Boys through Interactive BCC/IEC to Enhance Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health in Northern Uganda" [PPT], by Anne Gamurorwa, presentation at the First International Summit on Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC), February 9 2016 - accessed on March 4 2016.