This piece is a part of A360’s replication series on the UK Aid-funded Vale-a-Pena project. With and for young people, Vale-a-Pena is proving the power in applying A360’s youth-powered approach to determine what it takes to enact effective, resonant and ultimately lasting adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) behavior change in Mozambique – and beyond.
By Fuva Muiambo, Communications Officer, PSI/Mozambique
As young people have told the Vale a Pena team: girls and boys aged 10-19 don’t have safe spaces to freely and openly talk about their questions, sexuality and what it means to have an active sex life. They don’t know how to talk with their parents – often fearing their reactions – however they do trust their peers.
Mozambican youth deem safe spaces as judgment-free zones where they can speak freely about sensitive topics with people whom they trust and know will provide accurate information.
Throughout the 3 different provinces in which Vale a Pena operates, the need for safe spaces remained a constant desire among the young people we work with and for.
To fill this need, the Só Nós (Just Us) – Mobile Event prototype was created and tested in these three provinces.
- Our goal was to create a safe space for girls and boys aged 10-19 to talk about wellness and health topics: body awareness, beauty, life-skills and counselling about adolescent health and family planning services. This idea was posited as a way to bring events outside of clinics and instead into the heart of where young people live, delivering a space to engage in and normalize conversations surrounding sensitive topics such as sexual and reproductive health and family planning.
- What this looked like, in practice: Due to logistical limitations, the event was held in an open space where capulanas (traditional fabrics) were placed to create an enclosed space for adolescent girls where sessions could run independently from one another. To ensure participation, a moderator distributed coupons that could be redeemed at health clinics.
- Local partners were key to bringing girls and boys to the event: We partnered with local organizations each with a different expertise: Be Girl, Movimento Carapinha, Hora de Mudar, and Horizonte Azul. The event was promoted mainly through peer educators, through social media (Facebook), event invitations promote across partner websites, and through parental sessions within the community.
A breakdown of what happened during the event
From low to medium fidelity prototyping, our events were hosted in a large tent with multiple activity stations, creating a mobile safe space and ensuring girls could learn skills and feel a part of something bigger than themselves while understanding the changes that are occurring in their bodies. This was done by incorporating beauty and wellbeing/life skills events alongside optional services delivery sessions. Not only were young people able to engage with a youth-friendly health provider if they wanted, but the beauty and well-being side events responded to wants of these adolescents and tapped into a youth resonating entry point.
The tents were bright and included cheers for girls wrapped around the theme of “I decide my future.”
Some chants that were heard at the events included: “The one who decides about your future is you” and “visualize your future and learn about your choices.”
We were creating a community for girls to feel safe, and a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Beauty sessions with Movimento Carapinha- In this session, girls gathered and watched their peers get their hair braided using natural products. Girls were then able to participate in the braiding process while Horizonte Azul facilitated a debate related to gender and identity.
- Wellbeing Sessions with Be Girl – For this event, a presentation on menstrual hygiene and menstruation was given to teach girls about their bodies and how to manage their menstruation cycle.
- “Minha vida, meu futuro” with Hora de Mudar – Girls were told two stories about girls, one with a positive ending and one with a sad ending, and then had a discussion analyzing why the two stories had different outcomes and futures.
- Counseling session with FP Counselors- nurses and counselors were available to discuss family planning services with the girls.
But still, gaps remained.
Reaching Boys, Too
Many young boys were coming out to our event wanting to be included. We needed a way to intentionally engage them, elsewhere.
In order to fill this gap, from Medium Fidelity prototyping to High Fidelity prototyping, separate spaces were introduced in order to include boys through separate programming.
Our prototype expanded to include promoters and PSI staff engaging with adolescent boys through contests, music and games, as they had invested interest in the events
happening inside the tents. The mobilization processes involved distributing invitations with parental consent forms for young people to participate in the mobile event, and invitations in schools before and during the event further refined to ensure robust participation.
There were many ways that we measured the success and participation of this event.
- Registration list
- A Journey Passport-which adolescents use to follow the sessions with the idea of following her own journey,
- Exit interviews
- New FP users
- Coupons to measure parent’s engagement,
- Activity coupons to understand the numbers of sessions assisted and specifically the number of counseling and visits to the nurse.
We worked with a staff composed of 7 peer educators, 2 nurses, 5-8 School Counselors and 2-3 people from each session’s partners in the tent.
All staff members had different tasks, and most of them were community members. Nurses were there to discuss FP services; peer educators welcomed the girls, collected coupons and recommended sessions to begin with; partner organizations facilitated specific sessions such as Well Being; school counselors guided girls from one session to another, providing counseling and condom demonstrations in a specific session. All staff members received trainings on how our mobile event should be conducted.
- Gaza- 266 participants; 37 new family planning services; 4 HIV tests (only in Gaza)
- Nampula- 288 girls; 107 boys; 24 new family planning services
- Maputo- 268 girls; 80 boys; 62 new family planning services
- The privacy aspect involved with this model was preferred by girls who fear being exposed or shamed at health facilities when access to family planning services.
- The storytelling component of Hora de Mudar session grabs girls’ attention and makes them think about their own stories and decisions in life.
What did not work?
- Language – Local language vs Portuguese was a challenge in the provinces of Gaza and Nampula;
- Peer educators, counselors and partners facilitators need to be carefully trained and prepared to talk to adolescent girls (improve the methodologies);
How we are responding to this:
- We are planning to organize trainings for all staff members of the event in order to ensure more comprehensive methodologies to interact with adolescents
- In order to address the language barriers, we are looking into using locals to be peer educators and counselors
Só Nós is the point in the prototype system where girls have the greatest opportunity to become active participants in their own health decisions based on their developing levels of comfort. The snapshot of a girl participating in Door-to-Door, then in Girl’s Corner, followed by the Só Nós event is a drastic evolution in mannerism and confidence.
The messaging for events was strong, adolescents were actively engaged in activities, and the link between girls and nurses was positive. We had many girls attend the event, even without invitations who had become curious upon seeing the setup.
The results to date are positive – with learnings sourced to make the prototype stronger. We remain committed to ensuring all young people – no matter their background – have access to safe spaces to engage in SRH conversations, on their own terms.
We’re energized by what we’re learning, and where we’re going next.