Gender-transformative approaches to address unmet adolescent mental, sexual, and reproductive health needs in Ghana, Niger, and Burkina Faso
Adolescence is a period defined by rapid physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and sexual development. Although encouraging trends are being seen in declining adolescent pregnancy and childbirth, accompanied by increases in school participation, demand for contraception and age at first marriage in other parts of the world, this is not the case in much of West Africa. Poor quality and inadequate sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents makes them vulnerable to unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence, child and early forced marriage, and a range of other negative health outcomes. Beyond the physiological and social risks related to early pregnancy and childbirth lies the hidden – but critical – issue of adolescent mental health. Gender and other social norms influence how health providers and community members perceive appropriate and inappropriate behaviours for adolescents. These norms carry associated values and perspectives on masculinity and femininity as they pertain to how adolescents decide on their mental, sexual, and reproductive health needs and concerns.
This project will examine these pressing, and largely unmet, adolescent health demands in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Using participatory approaches, the project will co-design activities and interventions with adolescents, communities, and front-line health providers to enable gender-transformative and responsive health systems at the primary care level. This involves exploring the values, norms, power, practices, and perspectives of different groups in planning, delivering, and accessing these services; examining how this influences adolescent girls’ agency; and addressing connections between mental health and sexual and reproductive health for adolescents. Expected results of this project aim to improve the quality of health services for adolescents, enhance relationships, norms, and power dynamics within the community, and influence policy and structural changes for enhanced adolescent sexual, reproductive, and mental health.
This project is one among four selected through a closed competition run by the Global Health program titled “Advancing Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health Innovations using Gender Transformative Approaches”.