Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR): Building capacity and promoting advocacy around the dynamics of adolescent sex, gender and power, through intergenerational dialogues in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi

The legal, policy and practice environment for adolescent SRHR in Eastern and Southern Africa presents a mixed picture, often allowing for personal, cultural, social, religious and other beliefs to limit the sexual and health rights, and positive sexual experiences, of young people. In addition, there are often silences around sexual practices and histories of previous generations that create a sense of disconnectedness between different generations with regard to gender, sex and sexualities.

Moreover, and closely linked to the problem set out above:

  • healthcare workers across the region struggle with openness on sexual matters;
  • reflect within their professional conduct the morals; and
  • beliefs of their communities and may see themselves as the moral guardians of their communities.

Their training curricula are often conservative and narrowly biomedical. This means that healthcare workers often see their role vis a vis young people as a parental one which includes not only healthcare work but includes aspects of acting as moral compasses for their communities.

Against this background, the CSA&G sees an opportunity to bring young and older people together to explore each other’s sexual and gender lives, and stories. We believe these intergenerational meetings will help to develop new, and more sex positive, stories which can be used to address questions around the relationships between healthcare workers and young people accessing SRHR services.  Armed with this information, we argue that healthcare workers who work in SRHR spaces can be empowered to develop new skills to inform their SRHR encounters with young people.

This approach, in part, is focussed around the idea that more open dialogue and an increased communication flow between younger and older people will enable healthcare workers to be more in touch with their own sexual histories. This will encourage healthcare workers to have a more holistic approach to their work so that their encounters with adolescents, informed by the idea of life history and experiences, will be freer and more accepting.

The intervention will thus target both health care workers and adolescents in order to build capacity and promote advocacy for improved access to SRHR by, especially, adolescents in the targeted communities. This will ultimately improve the experiences of young people seeking SRHR services. The health care workers will be able to relate to the sexual practices and cultures of young people, talk about these in ways which are open and self-reflexive, and promote access to SRHR services which are supportive, non-stigmatising and mindful of their daily lived realities.

Phases

The 12 month-project will comprise of the following phases:

  • Scoping exercises in Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the three countries where the programme will be conducted;
  • Recruiting participants in each country through partners networks;
  • Two intergenerational dialogues and workshops with adolescents and elders in each of the three countries;
  • A workshop with young people and healthcare workers in each of the countries that will be informed by the preceding dialogues;
  • The development of booklets as a resource for health care workers following the analysis of the intergenerational dialogues and workshops;
  • Health care worker forums to disseminate information and advocate for youth friendly services;
  • Training workshops for health care workers on conducting appropriate interviews with young people and adolescents.

This project is supported by HIVOS Southern Africa.