mCenas! SMS Client Education to Improve Family Planning Uptake Among Youth



After working with young people in Mozambique for more than two decades, Pathfinder recognizes the many barriers youth face in terms of accessing and using contraceptive methods. One of the main barriers to uptake of contraception among youth is lack of knowledge around the range of contraceptive methods, especially myths and misconceptions about particular methods.

Pathfinder recognizes the need to offer innovative opportunities for youth to participate in a program that helps them learn more about methods, reduces myths and misconceptions, and supports changes in attitudes and behaviors around the use of contraception.That's where mCenas! comes in.

Project Profile

mCenas! identified and addressed myths and misconceptions related to family planning among the youth in Mozambique. With funding from USAID, Pathfinder developed role model stories and informational SMS messages to send to youth aged 15-24 to address family planning access and uptake. Pathfinder built upon the experiences and lessons learned of FHI360’s mobiles for reproductive health (m4RH) project delivering informational messages and their experience using role model stories via SMS in Ghana when designing this project. The role model stories, developed to address parenting and non-parenting boys and girls, covered key topics youth face in choosing to start or continue a family planning method.

One of the key functions of the SMS message platform was a “Frequently Asked Questions” function which allowed youth to receive SMS messages on topics ranging from pregnancy to sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, in addition to informational messages about family planning methods. Pathfinder’s Evidence to Action (E2A) project will conduct a rigorous research study to look at the effect of the SMS messages on the uptake of family planning methods by youth enrolled in the project.

The project, which ran from September 2013 through June 2014 in Maputo and Inhambane provinces, saw 2,000 young people make more than 17,000 requests for information.


mCenas! had three main components:

  1. A story delivered through SMS messages that youth can relate to and draw on for further dialogue and reflection with peers
  2. Informational messages about each contraceptive method
  3. An interactive "Frequently Asked Questions" function where the youth can ask about a range of sexual and reproductive health topics

To develop SMS stories, Pathfinder used an innovative approach to gather information from youth about barriers and facilitators to uptake of contraception by applying the Pathways to Change tool. Pathways to Change is a methodology developed by Pathfinder to help participants identify various social, interpersonal, and structural barriers to behavior change. In response to unique needs, Pathfinder developed two different role model stories—one for parenting youth and one for non-parenting youth. Both stories include constructing role models in each story for males and females and incorporate many of the barriers and facilitators identified in the formative research. Stories were crafted based on the stages of behavior change theory to reflect real life behavior change processes.

Download the mCenas! one-pager >

Read more about mCenas! and Pathfinder's Family Planning Initiative in our photo blog >



Your support is critical to ensuring our work can continue. Your gift of $25 or $50 helps women and families access contraception, maternal and newborn care services, and a range of other reproductive health services.

Related Publications

December 2014

Change Starts Here: Pathfinder International 2014 Annual Report

We believe change starts with expertly trained providers and pharmacies that never run out of supplies. It starts with open conversations among women, young people, men, religious leaders, mothers-in-law, policymakers, and others, joining to discuss their beliefs and remove barriers to their health and well-being. Our 2014 Annual Report shows a few highlights of how Pathfinder has served as a catalyst for change over the past year.

July 2014

mCenas! Reaching Youth with Information and Stories about Sexual Health

mCenas! - a comprehensive text message-based program that targeted youth aged 15-24 - has increased knowledge about contraceptive methods and dispel common myths around contraceptive methods.

October 2013

My Future, My Choice: Increasing Young People's Access to Contraception

This Fall 2013 edition of Pathways explores Pathfinder's work with adolescents and youth, and in particular, providing those young people with choices when it comes to their contraception methods, their bodies, and their futures.

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