Informed and Determined: Young People in Rural Benin Command the Airwaves to Talk About Sex

The piece originally ran on USAID Momentum.

In Kandi, Benin, a rural farming area more than 600 miles north of Cotonou, three young people gathered around a table in a blue-wallpapered room to host a one-hour program on the local community radio station. That program in the spring of 2022 focused on sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

The three young people, Jihane, Zoufrane, and Rachad, are members of Association Mairie des Jeunes, which engages young people in community activities related to SRH, including family planning and maternal health. The Association Mairie des Jeunes operates in Kandi where young people face many barriers to accessing contraception and other reproductive health care because of social and religious norms. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and early marriage are major challenges in North Benin; over 16 percent of young women aged 15-19 who are married want contraception but are unable to obtain it.1

As a group of young leaders who aspire to do more for their community, members of the Association responded to a call from the MOMENTUM Private Healthcare Delivery project to participate in a training along with 20 other organizations. The training in early 2022 centered around basic concepts of sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, sexually transmitted infections, gender equality, and maternal, newborn and child health. In addition to these topics, MOMENTUM’s training included strategies to increase accountability and advocacy for these SRH issues.

As a result of the trainings, the Association members created an action plan outlining activities that would tap into the information they had learned. They were determined to put one of those ideas into action immediately: hosting an interactive radio program to share information on SRH with the community.

The staff of the Association contacted the local radio station, Radio FM Kandi, which reaches more than 5,000 listeners in the community around Kandi. The station also has a mobile app that enables young people to follow the radio program at any time. They asked if they could have free airtime to host a thematic program that would generate family planning and reproductive health discussions within the community. Jihane, Zoufrane, and Rachad led the live broadcast which focused on sexually transmitted infections and which attracted plenty of questions, particularly around the causes and consequences of STIs and how to prevent them. Some callers suggested holding future conversations around other topics of interest to young people, such as forced marriage and gender-based violence.

The radio program was Association Mairie des Jeunes’ first step in delivering on their action plan. The Association is executing its action plan, which includes organizing SRH awareness sessions with students, other young people in their community, and health workers. MOMENTUM continues to engage the Association in other project activities aimed at increasing reliable access to SRH information through digital tools and connecting youth to health providers who can meet their unique needs.

The radio program serves as an example to young people in Kandi of how to inform others about sexual and reproductive health. One of the three young people who co-hosted, Jihane Touré, explained, “The program allowed us to reach a large number of people. The fact that it is interactive makes the exercise more interesting since we were able to answer directly the listeners’ questions.”

Reference

  1. 1. 2014 Benin Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS).

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