Each year, millions of young people, particularly girls and young women, are barred from making decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
A new project in Ghana, Mozambique, and Uganda will strengthen sexual and reproductive rights for more than 225,000 adolescents and youth (age 10-24) by 2026.
The Sexual and Reproductive Education (SHARE) project will be implemented in a consortium led by Right To Play in partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), and WaterAid, with technical support from FHI 360. It aims to advance gender equality by improving access to sexual and reproductive education and gender-responsive health care for young people, especially girls and young women. The five-year project will take an intersectional approach to equipping young people to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. It will support youth to keep themselves safe from disease, avoid early or unwanted pregnancies, and become advocates for their own health, well-being and rights.
SHARE is supported by the Government of Canada and funded by Global Affairs Canada. It is part of the historic $325-million commitment Canada made when it hosted the Women Deliver conference in 2019, an investment that is promoting gender equality and the health and rights of women and girls and supporting the realization of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, initially announced support for the SHARE project at the Canadian Conference on Global Health in November 2021.
Though progress has been made in recent years to reduce the systemic barriers marginalized groups face in realizing their sexual and reproductive rights, more work is needed. A 2020 study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 57 countries found that only 55% of girls and women feel they’re empowered to make decisions and exercise their reproductive rights. This lack of autonomy puts them at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and dangerous childbirth. In Ghana, the rate of adolescent pregnancies climbed from 10% in 2008 to 30% in 2017, with an additional increase starting in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. In Mozambique, almost half of girls will be married before they turn 18, and one in 10 will be married before the age of 15. In Uganda, the rate of child marriage is slightly lower, with 40% of girls getting married before 18; in recent years, the proportion of underage pregnancies (15-19 years old) has increased to 25%.
Drawing on project partners’ respective areas of expertise, the consortium will work with young adults, teachers, educators, local health workers, as well as community and government partners to increase access to sexual and reproductive health education and to gender-responsive health services for youth, especially girls and young women.
FAWE, a pan-African NGO founded in 1992 that promotes girls’ and women’s education by influencing the transformation of education systems in Africa through advocacy, will focus on advocacy and policy engagement to ensure adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health rights become a reality.
“In this day and age, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand regarding the sexual and reproductive health rights of girls and young women. The stakes are too high and the price too heavy to bear unless we act effectively. The time to address the elephant in the room and act accordingly is now,” says Martha Muhwezi, Executive Director, FAWE Africa.
Right To Play will use over two decades of experience protecting, educating and empowering children through the power of play to equip mentors and teachers with the training they need to provide young people with evidence-based information about sexual and reproductive health through experiential learning activities in schools.
“We are proud to support youth, especially girls and young women, to build knowledge and confidence that will help them make fact-based decisions about their reproductive health,” says Susan McIsaac, CEO, Right to Play International. “Using our engaging, play-based approach to learning, we will work with our expert partners FAWE, FHI360, and WaterAid to address the systemic barriers that keep youth from claiming their health-related human rights and empower them to become advocates for their own health.”
WaterAid will share its 40 years of experience of implementing water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs in developing countries to lead activities related to WASH, menstrual health and hygiene management (MHM), and health infrastructure rehabilitation.
“Access to WASH in healthcare facilities is essential to the delivery of safe, quality health care services, including sexual and reproductive health for women and girls,” says Nicole Hurtubise, CEO, WaterAid Canada. “As part of the SHARE program, WaterAid will leverage its experience acquired over decades to ensure that WASH supports the sexual and reproductive health of young women and girls, in schools, communities and healthcare centers.”
FHI 360, a non-profit human development organization founded in 1971 that is dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions will develop training materials, train health system actors, and conduct and disseminate research to address existing gaps in evidence.
The Sexual Health and Reproductive Education (SHARE) Project aims to advance gender equality by improving access to sexual and reproductive education and gender-responsive health care for young people, especially girls and young women, in Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda. Launched in 2022 through a partnership between Right To Play, FAWE, and WaterAid, the project is made possible with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada, and with technical assistance provided by FHI 360. The five-year project will strengthen sexual and reproductive rights for more than 225,000 adolescents and youth (age 10-24) by 2026.