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 however you label 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.
Across Ethiopia, ingrained cultural barriers often prevent young people from accessing the information and resources they deserve to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). 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 require new ways of broaching conversations around SRH. And through Adolescents 360 (A360), young people like Ayana are designing this new reality.
Ayana is one of more than 280 young designers for A360, a youth-powered SRH project that works with and for young people to reimagine how girls aged 15-19 access and perceive contraceptives across Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania. In Ethiopia, A360’s Smart Start uses financial planning 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 with young designers like Ayana. One in two girls who interacts with Smart Start takes up a contraceptive method, of which three in 10 are long-acting methods.
Smart Start equips young girls, like Ayana’s sister, with the tools to drive forward their futures. “I feel proud of this work and of what this means for our country’s future,” says Ayana.
—With Contribution from Emma Beck, Associate Communications Manager, PSI
Banner photo credit: PSI Ethiopia, illustrated by Cassie Kussy