Young Designers Help Cement Government Partnership

By Amerti Lemma, Communications Coordinator, PSI/Ethiopia

“I am impressed!” said Dr. Ephrem Tekle Lemango. Such a positive reaction from the head of the Maternal and Child Health Directorate of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health far exceeded the expectations of PSI/Ethiopia’s Adolescents 360 delegation. This transformational project puts adolescent girls at the center of program design, with the aim of gaining a 360-degree perspective of what influences her ability to access modern contraception.

Presenters Eden and Elyab, both 19 years old, were part of the cause for Dr. Ephrem’s positive impression of A360. On staff as Young Designers, they have been with the project from the beginning, interviewing young people about their lives to gain insights into the needs and wants of adolescents in Ethiopia. During introductions, Dr. Ephrem was bewildered that Young Designer was an official position at PSI/Ethiopia. To make the project come alive, Eden asked participants to join in a game – one that they had previously used during field work – and together Ministry staff and young designers generated a list of topics, identifying whether each was appropriate or inappropriate for young people to discuss with their parents/caretakers.

The two young designers discussed how insights were gathered and the research methods used to collect this qualitative data. They also shared how the insights will be applied into PSI/Ethiopia’s adolescent sexual and reproductive health interventions across Ethiopia. The team has taken the data and identified segments of girls where there is the potential to have a big impact: unmarried girls in schools, married girls desiring joint decision-making with their partners and adolescents in relationships. In the current phase of the project, Adolescents 360 is prototyping solutions – in other words testing out different ways to better reach and ease access to modern contraception for these segments of girls.

Although initially uncertain about the role the youth designers played, Dr. Ephrem shared how his experience as a youth advocate 15 years ago helped him understand the value of having young people involved throughout the Adolescents 360 process. Conscious that the needs of adolescents evolve over time, the Minister of Health expressed his confidence that the process being used would undoubtedly result in a solution custom-made for the young people of Ethiopia today. The enthusiasm and support for the project and process was undeniable as the presentation ended. The Minister offered recommendations to better position the project and pointed out that A360’s objectives overlap with several government initiatives, including a new school health package and the ‘Her Space’ project, which targets adolescents between the ages of 11-14.

The success of Adolescents 360 depends largely on the support of and partnership with governments, without which the project will not be able to achieve its goal of changing the landscape of contraceptive services for girls. PSI/Ethiopia will continue to use youth engagement, harnessing the knowledge and energy young people provide, to bring our partners along with us.

 Adolescents 360 (A360) is a four-year project aimed to increase access to and uptake of voluntary modern contraception among adolescent girls (15-19 years old) in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria. The project fuses public health, marketing, human-centered design, developmental neuroscience, and cultural anthropology and will meaningfully engage young people in the design and delivery of solutions that respond to their specific and varied needs. A360 is led by Population Services International, together with, the Center on the Developing Adolescent at the University of California Berkeley, Triggerise, and the Society for Family Health Nigeria. A360 is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Banner photo: © Population Services International / Banner Photo by: Sophia Greenbaum