THE MISSING INGREDIENT IN ADOLESCENT-CENTERED PROGRAMMING…
Earlier this year, at the 2023 Women Deliver conference, CIFF hosted a side event to collectively identify evidence-based solutions to intersecting challenges affecting girls and adolescent women. Beria Wawira, who represented the Zizi Afrique Foundation in our panel event, alongside Gift Kiti, CIFF Evidence, Measurement and Evaluation Analyst, and Yvonne Ng’ang’a, CIFF Child Health and Nutrition Analyst, share reflections on how integrated approaches can be implemented in programming to meet the interrelated needs of adolescent girls.
A resounding call currently echoes through the heart of our society, to shatter the barriers that keep our youth and women from reaching their true potential. To unleash the power of cross-sector integration, funders and implementers must urgently break down silos, harness understanding across different sectors, and bring change to scale.
In this article, we start with education and demonstrate how intersecting issues and challenges such as the climate crisis and gender inequalities across livelihoods and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) can be meaningfully addressed.
Embrace the Youth: Nurturing Tomorrow’s Leaders
The youth of our nations embody boundless dreams and aspirations and crave the chance to grow and evolve. Meaningfully involving young people and centering their voices in conversations around programming and policy can inherently encourage an intersectional approach as we are forced to acknowledge that young people are affected by myriad challenges.
In the classroom, adolescent girls and young women in Africa are affected by multiple intersecting inequalities. Socio-economic barriers or caring responsibilities can make school unaffordable or unfeasible for some families. Meanwhile, early pregnancy or child marriage can cause girls to drop out of school. Added to this, many stakeholders are yet to figure out where climate comes in. There is nascent but growing awareness of the impacts of climate change on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH). By 2050, 1 billion people will be displaced because of climate change and 80% of these people will be women and girls.[i] In addition, in the next decade alone, 14 million girls stand to lose access to contraception because of climate-related displacement.[ii]
Exploring best practices in integrated programming
Breaking silos in adolescent programming requires a collaborative effort from every corner of the society. Governments and policymakers, researchers, implementers, donors, communities, and individuals must join hands to build bridges of knowledge. Based on the rich discussions that emanated from our partners SHOFCO, Zizi Afrique, Ylabs, Ministry of Education (Kenya), Living Goods, AFIDEP, Food 4 education and Shonel Lunkuse-Adolescent representative during this side event, below are our recommendations on how different types of organizations can put this theory into action:
- Meaningfully involve the adolescent girls in the program design, implementation, and ongoing review to learn from and be able to shape the interventions to meet their evolving needs.
- Intentionally educate donors on the impact of climate on girls/adolescents YLabs (CIFF grantee partner) and Organon are doing so through the Climate Change and SRHR Framework to guide synergistic investments in climate action and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Create networks on integration, for instance through documenting and sharing learnings of integrated programming & service delivery. Zizi Afrique has created the Values and Life Skills (VaLi) Working Group, an initiative of civil society actors working to integrate core capabilities in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and advocate for collaboration in the education space.
- Integrate livelihoods in adolescent-centered programming. Food for Education (F4E) provides affordable, hot, and nutritious meals to public primary schools in Kenya, hence school enrollment has increased, girls protected from predators and the families of the employed cooks are financially empowered.
- Encourage collaboration and partnerships: cultivate a culture of knowledge and best practices sharing as well as collaborations across different regions, countries, and organizations. A good example of an integrated model is Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO) which CIFF is currently supporting in their holistic approach of providing adolescent girls with comprehensive learning, clean water, sanitation and hygiene services, sexual and reproductive health services, community empowerment, prevention, and response to gender-based violence (GBV); read more about SHOFCO’s work here.
- Work with grantee partners to understand climate risks associated with current investments, as described in the work of YLabs and Organon.
- Be open to exploring new and unexpected integration of approaches as they could be context and issue-specific; while building in grant flexibility for adaptation of integrated approaches.
Government and Policymakers
- Support effective and meaningful use of schools as a key platform for SRH education and services.
- Change the thinking and narrative of development programming and funding from a single sector to an integrated whole-person-centered approach.
- Create policies that emphasize the needs of excluded communities: affirmative action can be targeted in this way including curriculum reforms or flexible learning options, for instance, the Government of Kenya’s directive that all schools should plant trees.
Let us invest in girls, not as an expense, but as an investment where we effectively, efficiently, and sustainably aim to address the interrelated needs. Women Deliver 2023 was a vital space, both for discussing these ideas and for advancing them by bringing stakeholders together amplifying the importance of funding integrated adolescent programming, and creating relationships across siloes that can live on beyond the conference. Empowering girls and creating an environment where they can freely speak about the challenges they face goes a long way in ensuring good health and well-being.
The evidence is clear: when we empower our youth and women through education, we sow the seeds of progress and prosperity for generations to come.
Beria Wawira (Zizi Afrique Foundation)
Gift Kiti (EME, CIFF)
Yvonne Ng’ang’a (Child Health and Nutrition, CIFF)