A new project, launched this week in Nairobi, sets out to improve the health and wellbeing of adolescents in the Great Lakes Region (Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia), and address religious and cultural barriers young people face in accessing quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and family planning services.
The Solutions for Supporting Healthy Adolescents and Rights Protection (SHARP) programme brings together a unique group of organisations that include adolescent, commodity, gender, SRH and faith experts with a track record in research and advocacy for policy change that has a positive impact. Utilising these skills and experiences, SHARP works with policymakers, the private sector, faith leaders, influencers and adolescents themselves to improve access to SRH services and commodities and, ultimately, bring lasting improvements to health and wellbeing, particularly for adolescent girls.
Explaining why action was needed to address the issue, SHARP Coordinator at Health Action International, Ange Moray, said:
“Our research has shown availability of contraceptives and other essential SRH commodities in the Great Lakes Region is poor, for example less than 50% in Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. The COVID-19 pandemic only made things worse in many areas. Meanwhile, inequitable access to SRH commodities and family planning services hits adolescents, especially girls, particularly hard and leads to a range of issues that have an impact on individuals and society, including early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. By working with a wide range of stakeholders, together we can turn the tide and improve the lives of young people.”
Speaking about the positive role faith leaders in particular can have, Peter Munene, the CEO of the Nairobi based non-profit organisation Faith to Action Network noted that:
“Faith leaders require and can also provide a safe space to discuss issues of adolescent sexual reproductive health to achieve consensus on how to approach the issues. We have to always remember and respect that Faith Leaders are guided by Holy Scriptures and values. From our work at Faith to Action Network, we have put Faith Leaders at the centre of our advocacy in terms of advancing SRH as they bring with them influence and convening authority in our advocacy. It is very important to recognise that as we work with Faith Leaders, they need a safe space which gives them the opportunity to deeply reflect and reach consensus, even on contentious issues.”
The SHARP project is funded by the European Union (EU). Speaking at the launch, Katrin Hagemann, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Kenya, stressed the EU’s commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment through global action. She added that it was “clear from the SHARP programme that activities have been designed to address the adverse impact and turning back the clock effect of the [COVID-19] pandemic on the access, availability and utilisation of critical SRH services.”
The SHARP project will run from now until April 2026.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the SHARP Partnership and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.