Giving Compass' Take:

• Arielle Gorstein and Emily Zimmerman explain why family planning solutions that center on girls as advocates are critical in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

• How important is sex education for men and boys in preventing dangerous situations and unwanted pregnancies for women? What can we do to make women and girls in marginalized communities the focal point for family planning solutions?

• Learn about why family planning solutions are essential in enhancing gender equality.

An unplanned pregnancy during adolescence can dramatically impact a girl’s health and economic future, yet use of modern family planning (FP) services among adolescents remains low in many places. The challenge is particularly great in many countries in Africa, where despite a global rise in FP use among adolescents, adolescent fertility remains high and nearly two-thirds of sexually active girls who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. Access to modern contraceptives is hindered by a variety of factors, including legal barriers like age of consent, affordability, method availability, and health workers’ willingness to provide sexual and reproductive health services to youth.

Efforts to tackle the challenge often focus on improving the availability and ‘youth-friendliness’ of services, educating girls about FP and encouraging them to access services, and convincing communities that youth access to modern contraceptives is important. While programs sometimes work through peer educators to reach youth, these young people are often trained extensively and take on a more formal role, in contrast to the girls they seek to reach, who are approached as more passive recipients or beneficiaries of such a program rather than true peers. Historically, peer education programs have had limited success.

Research has repeatedly shown that across many contexts, girls often don’t perceive themselves to have agency in matters concerning sex, family planning, and their reproductive futures. To enhance a sense of agency among girls, we drew from research in other contexts showing that giving advice to others can encourage action by building confidence and motivation. With this in mind, we sought to develop solutions which would put more girls in the role of advocates for family planning within their peer groups.

Read the full article about girls' agency in family planning solutions by Arielle Gorstein and Emily Zimmerman at Ideas42.