In 2020, Niger’s Ministry of Public Health sought a new way to facilitate the integration of young people’s voices into its national strategies and ensure these strategies respond to young people’s needs. E2A launched a tool for this exact purpose. Our Tool for Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health (AYRH)- Responsive Planning, or “TARP,” is a user-friendly digital application for youth advocates—of any age—to analyze family planning and reproductive health plans and budgets to determine how responsive they are to the needs of young people (ages 15–24) in a particular setting. Below, read a brief Q&A with Dr. AMADOU Housseini, Head of the Birth Regulation Division in the Family Planning Department, Ministry of Public Health of Niger, about his personal experience with TARP, what surprised him most, and why he thinks this innovative tool should be used by youth advocates in other countries.
1. Let’s start at the heart of the matter: Why is meeting the needs of Niger’s adolescents and youth a priority for you?
I am a doctor by training and a specialist in population and health. Since 2019, I have worked in the Family Planning Department, where I lead the Birth Regulation Division. In my role, one of the things I’m responsible for is providing technical support for the development and validation of high-impact strategies aimed at increasing young people’s access to family planning.
This is especially important in Niger, where young people under age 25 constitute more than 60% of our population. This number represents a challenge—to make sure all these young people have knowledge about their bodies and can avoid risky sexual and reproductive behaviors that can negatively impact their lives—and we must tackle it together. But Niger’s large youth population also represents an opportunity. We must act to support youth potential and put Niger on the path to attaining the demographic dividend by investing in the reproductive health needs of our young people.
Adolescents and young people have specific family planning needs that are not sufficiently addressed. Our Ministry of Public Health is committed to meeting this need by strengthening our Family Life Education Program and creating more points of access to reproductive health and family planning services for young people, both in and out of school.
2. What’s one of the biggest challenges Niger’s Ministry of Health faces in closing this gap to deliver quality sexual and reproductive health care to young people?
We need to increase the involvement of adolescents and youth in taking their needs into account and in the implementation of policies and programs that affect them.
We must start by supporting young people’s mastery and knowledge of national strategic documents. They can use these documents as a lever to succeed in their advocacy to enhance decision makers’ consideration of their needs.
A young person who is not familiar with these strategic documents misses an opportunity to defend his or her peers. True mastery of these plans allows young people to participate in the important conversations that affect their future.
3. Yes! This is precisely why E2A created TARP. So how did your team decide to use TARP to engage youth in the process of analyzing Niger’s National FP Plan?
I have always worked alongside youth organizations. My goal is to better understand their aspirations and expectations, and how to collaborate and make the most of our collaboration. So, when I heard about TARP, I recognized its potential as a tool for youth advocates of all ages to reflect on how far we have come and what remains to be done.
Specifically, Niger is committed to ensuring that at least 15 percent of the activities funded in our country’s FP Action Plan are dedicated to meeting the needs of young people. With this in mind, Niger is currently in the process of evaluating the 2013–2020 budgeted National FP Action Plan, which will also make it possible to develop our budgeted 2021–2025 National Action Plan.
And that is where we used TARP. Our team had a discussion with various technical partners, including Pathfinder International, the E2A project, and Marie Stopes International. In May 2020, we decided to use TARP to achieve a double objective:
(A) Evaluate Niger’s 2013-2020 budgeted National Action Plan in order to better consider the aspirations of young people in the development of Niger’s next plan.
(B) Create a team of specialists in Niger trained in the use of TARP.
Together, we organized a two-day orientation workshop for national trainers on TARP, which took place in October 2020. Then we held a capacity building workshop for youth organizations on TARP a month later in Niamey.
4. What surprised you most about your experience using TARP?
I was most surprised by the thoughtful and rigorous debates among participants. TARP generated discussions that touched on many different dimensions of the challenges we face in meeting the needs of adolescents and youth—including various themes within sexual and reproductive health as well as regional nuances, issues of equity, and even various socio-economic and political factors.
I also appreciated the way TARP automatically generated the results of your analysis of the plan. Both the discussion and the results can be beneficial as we develop and plan programs.
5. What’s next?
Our next steps include validating the report, sharing results, prioritizing the points to integrate into Niger’s next plan, and finally beginning to draft the next plan. With tools like TARP, as well as key regional and national partnerships—notably Ouagadougou Partnership and FP2030—we will continue to engage young people in a meaningful way. This is our vision. Together, we support young people to become responsible and committed actors in the development of the population and the future of Niger.