The African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), in partnership with Exemplars in Global Health, launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Exemplars (ASHER) project at the sidelines of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference. The project aims to initiate substantial policy and programme advances through sharing and implementing best practices that comprehensively cater to adolescent health.
ASHER examines the policies, programmes and interventions within six exemplar countries (Cameroon, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nepal and Rwanda) that have successfully reduced adolescent fertility rates and improved ASRHR outcomes. The goal of this unique approach is to provide insights to support decision-makers within countries, global partners and funders in developing evidence-based policies and guidelines and channelling appropriate investments to youth-friendly packages and services.
Young people are disproportionately impacted by poor sexual and reproductive health, including high levels of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancies, and gender-based violence. Though progress has been made, there remain significant barriers to adolescents easily accessing SRH information and services. Needed interventions for ASRHR include comprehensive sexuality education, care for STIs other than HIV, gender-based violence prevention and counselling, sexual health and well-being support, and access to safe abortion services.
Research organisations in the selected countries are conducting in-depth studies to capture valuable insights into how they successfully implemented ASRHR strategies. AFIDEP serves as the cross-country research partner. Speaking at the launch, Professor Nyovani Madise, AFIDEP Director and the principal investigator of the project said: “One of the best ways to support progress on any health issue is to learn from those who are succeeding in that area. By generating rigorous and objective analysis of the exemplary progress made by six countries on adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights, the consortium of cross- and in-country researchers hope to foster learning about what factors were most influential in the excellent progress observed in these countries. Ultimately, we aim to equip policymakers with the tools they need to improve the well-being of all young people.”
The ASHER project is part of the Exemplars in Global Health programme which aims to identify and analyse positive outliers in global health issues such as women’s health, maternal and child health, nutrition, epidemic preparedness and response, and health systems. Jen Kidwell Drake, Women’s Health Lead at Exemplars in Global Health, highlighted that the collaboration with in-country research partners (ICRPs) will contribute to the success stories that have not been fully documented, explored and understood in the identified countries. It will also help in understanding how progress was achieved, with the intent of sharing these insights with other countries to collectively make strides in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
ASHER has also engaged youth advisors – two from each of the selected countries. Three youths are also part of the project’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG). Foster Mafiala who is a youth advisor for Malawi and a member of the TAG commented: “The ASHER project has accorded a conducive environment for young people to meaningfully contribute to designing research tools and methodology and implementing the project. This helps in ensuring the concerns and challenges faced by youths are carefully considered in policy recommendations, and has the potential of achieving lasting and far-reaching impact.”
The Women Deliver Conference, renowned for its dedication to advancing the rights and well-being of women and girls, provided the perfect platform for the consortium to introduce the ASHER project to the global community. The research findings would help provide young people with the necessary health services and enable them to make better and more informed decisions, leading to happier, healthier, and more prosperous families, communities, and societies.
The Exemplars in Global Health (EGH) programme is a global coalition of partners including researchers, academics, experts, funders, country stakeholders and implementers. Their mission is to identify positive global health outliers, analyse what makes countries successful, and disseminate core lessons so they can be adapted in comparable settings. They aim to help country-level decision-makers, global partners and funders make strategic decisions, allocate resources, and craft evidence-based policies.
The African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) is an African-led, non-profit research and policy institute established in 2010 to help bridge the gaps between research, policy and practice in development efforts in Africa. The Institute is registered as a non-profit institution in the USA (with 501(c)3 status) and as a non-governmental organisation in both Kenya and Malawi, with a mandate to work across Africa. It seeks to contribute to the realisation of the SDGs and other development strategies by enabling the formulation of effective development policies and programme interventions.