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Youth Health and Empowerment—Focus of Two New Pathfinder Projects in Africa

Projects in Ethiopia, Niger to improve the health and development of youth

Building on decades of experience advancing adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights on the African continent, Pathfinder will be launching two new youth projects in Ethiopia and Niger.

In Niger, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will support Pathfinder, in partnership with MSI Reproductive Choices Niger and the Association of Young Girls for Reproductive Health to implement Jagorantin Matassa or “Listen to Youth.” The project will work in 11 rural districts of Dosso and Tillabéri regions, where extreme poverty, maternal deaths, and security challenges are pervasive.

Listen to Youth seeks to empower young people through the advancement of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, allowing girls to stay in school instead of marrying and coping with unintended pregnancies. By engaging and strengthening the capacity of local youth movements, organizations, youth champions, religious leaders, and school health clubs, the project seeks to apply a sustainable approach that gives young people long-term access to quality sexual and reproductive health care and shifts gender norms in favor of young women’s reproductive autonomy and choice.

“Niger is one of the youngest places in the world, with the average age hovering around 15 years old,” said Dr. Sani Aliou, Pathfinder’s Country Director in Niger. “For their futures and all our futures to be brighter, we must make sure young people have the services they need while also engaging their hearts and minds in policymaking and programs meant to empower them. This new project will do just that.”

In Ethiopia, Pathfinder’s focus will be on adolescents and youth in rural areas who are not in school. An estimated 20 million Ethiopians, ages 7-19, are not enrolled in or attending school, putting them at higher risks of poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse, and hindering their ready access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care.

The “Youth-Friendly Services and Community Approaches to Reach Adolescents” project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will work nationally in Ethiopia to assess the barriers faced by out-of-school adolescents and youth in accessing sexual and reproductive health services, and the current reach and impact of existing youth-friendly service delivery models. Findings will inform the testing of community-based approaches to reach adolescents and youth and the types of youth-friendly service delivery models that would be most effective with them. As the government seeks to increase the percentage of health facilities offering youth-friendly services from 60% of facilities to 80% by 2025, assessment results will provide critical information to the Ministry of Health.

“Pathfinder’s support to the roll-out of youth-friendly services in Ethiopia has allowed more than 8 million young people to receive care,” said Dr. Mengistu Asnake, Pathfinder’s Senior Country Director in Ethiopia. “We will now extend our partnership with the Ministry of Health to focus in on the needs of out-of-school youth, who are some of the most marginalized from health care and identify the most effective youth-friendly service delivery model.”

The projects, in both Ethiopia and Niger, build on previous Pathfinder work, including the Liptako project in Niger and the Act With Her and Transform projects in Ethiopia.

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