Shifting gender norms for improved maternal and adolescent health in The Gambia and Ghana
The largest cohort of youth in history is entering the stage of adolescence characterized by rapid physical, cognitive, and social development. Decisions made during this critical stage have significant impacts on health and overall well-being in later life. In The Gambia and Ghana, sexual debut of girls occurs at a young age, when they are unprepared to navigate sexual behaviours and consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, sexual and gender-based violence, unsafe abortions, and associated complications. A combination of restrictive laws and policies, limited capacity of the health system to deliver quality services, lack of tailored information, and harmful cultural practices and social norms are limiting the ability of adolescents – especially adolescent girls – to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and access quality services.
This project uses gender-transformative approaches to address both supply-side and demand-side challenges encountered by adolescent girls and boys in addressing their sexual, reproductive, and maternal health needs. The supply side focuses on making adolescent sexual and reproductive health services more youth-friendly. Using training and supported interactions, the project will examine and positively influence attitudes and norms of both healthcare providers and young couples. The project will also look at intersecting vulnerabilities (such as ethnic or sexual identity, poverty, or education levels) of adolescents to support changing harmful gender norms and practices. The demand side involves strengthening birth preparedness and complication readiness by pregnant adolescent girls so that unnecessary and potentially fatal delays in accessing maternal and newborn health services are reduced. Overall, the project is designed to identify relevant factors and strategies to successfully sustain and scale up the intervention to other communities across Ghana and The Gambia.
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”.