By Didier Drogba, Professional Footballer and Founder of the Didier Drogba Foundation
Amid the championships and career highlights, one of my proudest achievements to date was the creation of the Didier Drogba Foundation (DDF). When we launched in 2007, it was with the hope of making a positive impact in the lives of the people of Côte d’Ivoire, elsewhere in Africa, and around the world.
On a personal level, I wanted to do my small part to provide young people in my country with the same opportunities that form the cornerstone of my success today.
At DDF, we believe that investing in young people’s health and education is not only key to theirwellbeing and ability to realize their full potential, but also essential to developing thriving and resilient communities.
This journey has also taught us the need to address one of the major—and often overlooked—challenges facing young people today: access to contraception.
Despite major progress, teen pregnancy is a serious and growing issue that affects about 42% of girls in Côte d’Ivoire–70.9% of these are unplanned. Unintended pregnancy is not only a health issue, but one that is both deeply rooted in, and perpetuates, the cycle of poverty. I’ve learned it’s one of the primary reasons girls drop out of school early, diminishing their access to future opportunities. It’s also associated with increased death, HIV infection, and disability, particularly among girls and women 15 to 24 years old.
The global health experts we’ve worked with have shared that many young people urgently need health information and access to contraception, but face countless barriers, including health providers who don’t understand their unique needs, don’t have contraceptives in stock, or discriminate against them.
I’ve gotten the chance to see first-hand that overcoming these barriers requires us to work differently, smarter, and forge new and creative partnerships.
This is why DDF is pleased to announce we are working with PSI and CARE on a transformative initiative to put young people at the center of claiming their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
But this isn’t about us deciding what’s best for youth. It’s about young people taking the lead, elevating their voices, and advocating for programs that work for them. We’re joining their team, not the other way around.
Putting young people in the driver seat presents a unique opportunity that allows them to hold stakeholders accountable and helps to build engagement between youth and decision makers, and thus, eventually improve the quality of services they receive.
I’m excited to work with young people to co-create the tools they need to thrive and then get out of their way, because I believe that’s when communities and countries thrive.