Informed and empowered youth, key in reducing teenage pregnancies

Educating and empowering her fellow youth to reduce teenage pregnancies in their barangay is a mission shared by May Ann Jacob in her speech during the “Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) in Action” webinar held last September 22.

Jacob, 25, a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) councilor from Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro City, represented the youth leaders who trained under The Challenge Initiative (TCI) in the Philippines during the “Youth in Action: Stories from the front lines of TCI” presentation of the webinar.

Co-managed and co-funded by the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, TCI aims to establish adolescent-friendly health facilities that promote positive health-seeking behavior and improve access to family planning programs.

Behavior change design
Jacob’s experience during the Leadership for Adolescent and Youth Friendly Cities training of TCI and in partnership with the Commission on Population and Development taught her that having informed and empowered youth is vital in making adolescent and youth-friendly cities toward reduced teenage pregnancies.

“[The training] taught me that through behavior change design (BCD), we could help our fellow youth in practicing positive behavior to decrease teenage pregnancies,” Jacob said.

The BCD is a human-centered approach that blends insights and methods to come up with best practices in identifying the desired new behavior. The identified change in behavior will then be reinforced among teenagers through innovative solutions. The 8-step process emphasizes the deep dive, which is Step 2.

Deep dive
The deep dive is integral in ZFF programs and gives leaders an opportunity to immerse themselves in unfamiliar environments and different contexts to gain a wider perspective of the real situation and build relationships with stakeholders. “It was an eye-opener on the major challenge of the high incidence of teenage pregnancies in our barangay and the city,” Jacob shared.

Together with their SK Chairman Jun Nador, Jacob came up with an advocacy campaign dubbed “Project Trese” after a deep dive wherein they learned that teenage mothers and fathers in their community lack information and access to AYSRH programs. The project focuses on information and educational activities. In partnership with their barangay health workers, they plan to conduct skills training and give livelihood opportunities to the youth.

World Contraception Day
Held in celebration of World Contraception Day, the webinar hosted by the Gates Institute also showcased the stories of youth leaders and advocates from other TCI hubs in East Africa, Francophone West Africa, and India. There were also presentations on what works in youth advocacy, and contraceptive dynamics during COVID-19 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Observed every September 26, World Contraception Day aims to raise awareness about contraception and guide couples to an informed decision about family planning so that every pregnancy is wanted. This year’s theme was “Contraception: it’s your life, it’s your responsibility.”