Adolescent girls and young women bear a particularly high burden of poor sexual and reproductive health. Globally, adolescents ages 15-19 have a higher risk of maternal mortality than older women, they are less likely to space pregnancies at least two years apart than older women, and they have lower contraceptive use and higher unmet need for contraception than older women.
In Guinea, the median age at marriage among women 20-49 years old is 16, one-quarter of women aged 20-49 were married by age 15, and 85 percent of women aged 20-49 were married by age 20.
Data in Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger reflect these global trends. West Africa has consistently lower contraceptive prevalence rates as a region than the rest of Africa, and has some of the highest unmet need for contraception in the world. In particular, adolescent girls and young women in the region confront myriad sexual and reproductive health challenges ranging from early marriage to unintended pregnancies to gender-based violence.
Despite the poor sexual and reproductive health indicators, young women, especially young married women, continue to be an underserved and vulnerable group who are socially isolated, have less access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, are not empowered to advocate for their sexual and reproductive rights, and are often missed by current reproductive health programs.
Pathfinder recently opened an office in Guinea to address the many sexual and reproductive health problems faced by youth by capitalizing on the current momentum around sexual and reproductive health and family planning in the region. The Pathfinder team is providing technical support, ongoing mentoring, and supervision to contribute to the strengthening of the responsiveness of the health systems to adolescents and youth and further develop the capacity of local partners in AYSRH technical strategies, program implementation, and monitoring.
Pathfinder is laying the groundwork to address the great need for contraception and sexual and reproductive health services in West Africa, a region with some of the lowest contraceptive prevalence rates and highest maternal mortality in Africa.
Evidence to Action for Strengthened Family Planning and Reproductive Health Services for Women and Girls (E2A)
The Evidence to Action Project (E2A) is USAID’s global flagship for strengthening family planning and reproductive health service delivery.
Pathfinder believes every girl deserves a childhood. If her childhood is stolen from her, she needs access to high quality sexual and reproductive health care. This issue of Pathways explores Pathfinder's innovative work to address the urgent health needs of married girls and young women in West Africa—an extremely underserved group.
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.
In a year of remarkable achievement, including Pathfinder’s landmark victory at the US Supreme Court and our return to Bangladesh with a $53.8 million project, what was most exciting? The answer—integration—is the theme of Pathfinder’s 2013 Annual Report.
The first time Almaz, a teenager living in rural southern Ethiopia, went to the crowded health care clinic in her village to get contraception, she was told they only helped older women with children. The second time, she waited hours only to find out that her preferred method of contraception was out of stock. Almaz is just one example of the many adolescent girls and young women around the world with unmet needs.