West Africa Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Program

West Africa has consistently lower contraceptive prevalence rates as a region than the rest of Africa, and has some of the world's highest unmet need for contraception. Adolescent girls face unique challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health.

In 2012, we launched one of the first programs targeting married adolescent girls and young women in the region. It brings together governments, health care providers, mothers-in-law, religious leaders, and husbands to empower these young women.

Lompo was a child when she became a bride. She doesn’t know how old her husband is. "I never asked," she says softly. An innovative partnership with local government and communities in West Africa addresses the health needs of married girls like Lompo.

Ouali felt happy when she became a wife at 15. "My friends were getting married then too," she says. Now away from school and her family, Ouali spends her days cooking, cleaning, and traveling long distances to collect water and firewood.

“I did not want to get married at 14," says Nadjoari. "My parents pushed me into it. I could not refuse.” Five years later, Nadjoari lives with her husband, her co-wife, and their small children.

Pathfinder is laying the groundwork to address the great need for contraception and sexual and reproductive health services in francophone West Africa, a region that has some of the lowest contraceptive prevalence rates and highest maternal mortality in Africa.

In Niger, many girls are forced to leave their families’ homes and abandon their hopes of an education. They are rendered virtually powerless. These girls have been invisible for far too long, suffering in silence or dying because they became pregnant too young. We want them to know: we see you. You have rights.” — Dr. Sani Aliou, Country Representative, Pathfinder Niger

Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Three in every four girls is married off before she turns 18. Sixty-three percent of Guinean girls are married before they turn 18; in Burkina Faso, it’s 48 percent. (Source: UNICEF)

With funding from the John D. Templeton Foundation, Pathfinding Fund, Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Pathfinder is implementing a scalable, evidence-based model focusing on promotion of sexual and reproductive health among young married women and their partners in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

In Burkina Faso, Pathfinder supports community groups in allowing young women to develop a social network and support system, and offer an opportunity for them to receive information about contraception services and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

Using effective strategies from our work in India and Uganda, Pathfinder works with the Ministries of Health in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger to support their efforts to develop strategies for adolescent reproductive health. Subawards are being prepared for local partner organizations to implement community-level activities in both countries.

West Africa

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Related Publications

April 2016

Young Mothers Take Control of Their Future

Today, half the world’s population is under 25. This issue of Pathways explores how young mothers like Dorothy are exercising their sexual and reproductive rights—and taking control of their future.

March 2016

Providing Reproductive Health Services to Young Married Women and First-time Parents in West Africa: A Supplemental Training Module for Facility-based Health Care Providers

Young married women and first-time parents (FTPs) face a unique set of challenges to living healthy sexual and reproductive lives. This training aims to give health care providers the knowledge and skills they need to meet the needs of these groups. This training is designed for use in francophone West Africa, where a significant proportion of adolescent girls aged 15–19 and young women aged 20–24 are married or living in union, but it can easily be adapted for other settings.

March 2016

Providing Reproductive Health Services to Young Married Women and First-time Parents in West Africa: A Supplemental Training Module for Community Workers Conducting Home Visits

This training aims to give community health workers conducting home visits to young married women and first-time parents (FTPs) the knowledge and skills needed to promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of these groups. This training is designed for use in francophone West Africa, where a significant proportion of adolescent girls aged 15–19 and young women aged 20–24 are married or living in union, but it can easily be adapted for other settings.

March 2016

Small Group Facilitation for Young Married Women and First-time Parents in West Africa: A Supplemental Training Module for Facilitators

This training aims to impart the skills needed for peers to facilitate small groups of young married women and first-time parents (FTPs), which can reduce these young women’s social isolation and increase knowledge of sexual and reproductive health. This training is designed for use in francophone West Africa, where a significant proportion of adolescent girls aged 15–19 and young women aged 20–24 are married or living in union, but it can easily be adapted for other settings.

Related Projects

Niger image

IMPACT: Promoting Access to Contraception for All in Niger

Initiative de Mobilisation pour L’accès à la Contraception pour Tous (IMPACT) is a four-year project funded by the Gates Foundation that will strengthen service delivery to support healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies in Niger.

Reaching First-Time Parents with Sexual and Reproductive Health Information in Niger

Pathfinder International is launching a new reproductive health program that will focus on intensive outreach to first-time parents, building their knowledge and capacity to manage their own fertility and family health.

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