by Emma Beck, Associate Communications Manager, Adolescents 360
Ayana has a dream for his 25-year-old sister.
It’s a dream for the same sister who teasingly calls him “competitive.” Ayana prefers his mother’s more flattering description of “brave.” But whatever you call them, these two characteristics feed Ayana’s commitment to helping girls find a pathway to achieving their dreams.
“I want to see my sister become a person who can fully choose what she wants for her future,” the 27-year-old says. “I want her, like all girls in my nation, to have the same opportunities as boys.”
Across Ethiopia, engrained cultural barriers often prevent young people from accessing the information and resources they deserve to make choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Girls grow up without an understanding of the role contraception plays in planning or preventing pregnancy. Boys, Ayana says, grow up thinking contraception is not their problem.
But it is.
Shifting behaviors requires new ways of broaching conversations around sexual health. It means harnessing individual voices of young people so that they can make the health decisions that shape their futures.
Through Adolescents 360 (A360), young people like Ayana are designing this reality.
Ayana is one of more than 280 young designers for A360, an adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health project that works with and for young people. A360 reimagines how girls aged 15-19 access and perceive contraceptives across Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
In Ethiopia, A360’s Smart Start uses financial planning as an entry point to position contraception in service of rural couples’ self-defined goals. Girls and their husbands map out how much a child would cost in contextually relevant terms (like a sack of grains), a component developed in partnership with Smart Start’s young designers like Ayana. One in two girls who interacts with Smart Start takes up a contraceptive method. Of those, approximately three in 10 adopters opt for a long-acting method.
This, Ayana remarks, is a revolution.
Smart Start equips young girls with the knowledge and resources to drive forward their futures—with the understanding that their aspirations are within reach. For Ayana, the program has delivered a structure to engage in SRH topics with his sister; as she approaches her own wedding next year, their talks have encouraged her to choose what is right for her, all while assuaging her apprehension about the safety of contraception.
“I had not imagined a girl to be leading conversations [about contraception] when I started on A360 two years ago,” Ayana says. “I feel proud of this work and of what this means for our country’s future.”
Banner image: © 2003 Ed Scholl, Courtesy of Photoshare