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My Voice, My Health : Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Teens in Senegal

Toronto, ON – October 28, 2020 – Crossroads International announces a new initiative “My Voice, My Health: Improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents in Kédougou, Senegal” aimed at improving the accessibility, quality and uptake of sexual and reproductive health services for teens in the region. This project was developed by Crossroads International and ActionAid International Senegal in collaboration with two local partners, APROFES and CONAFE. Their combined experience and skills will be put to use to help protect the rights of women and girls in Senegal.

“Together, let’s dare to take up the challenge of promoting the reproductive and sexual health rights of women and young people in the beautiful region of Kédougou!” declared Binta Sarr, President of APROFES.

The organizations will also draw on their expertise in reducing gender-based, sexual and sexist violence in one of the most isolated and marginalized regions in the country.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada, this five-year project directly targets 30 000 teens and expects to reach 75 000 indirect beneficiaries. It will focus on the lack of basic social infrastructure, including health services that struggle to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. The joint initiative aims to provide young people—young girls aged 10 to 19 in particular—with the tools needed to protect themselves against sexual and sexist violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM). According to Youth Women Action (2017), FGM affects 36% of women in Kédougou, as compared with 13% at the national level. This initiative will involve implementing a series of measures to fight against forced and early marriage, early pregnancy, sexual abuse and the transmission of STIs, including HIV/AIDS. It will also help young girls and women to access the health services they so desperately need. Dr Abdoulaye FALL, director of the Ma Voix, Ma santé / DAMCAM project for Carrefour International explains:

The partners recognized the need to address the issues facing women and girls in the Kédougou region of Senegal. The problems of approach and access, but also the insufficiencies noted in girls’ and teens’ rights, namely early marriages, genital mutilation, therefore sexual … and, also, this offer of sexual health and reproduction which has really become a taboo among certain ethnic groups in the Kédougou region.

 

This collaborative project will focus on educating women and girls about their rights and on enhancing existing reproductive and sexual health services. It will also seek to improve the accessibility and quality of such services while consolidating the capacity of key actors in the local health system. This will involve adapting those services to meet the specific needs of teens. The organizations will raise awareness of the general public including parents, local elected officials as well as traditional and religious leaders through community-based information activities and targeted training sessions in communities and schools.

 

Massiami Nathaly Soumahoro, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at ActionAid International Senegal, adds “We can’t wait to ‘change the world’ of Kédougou’s teens!”

 

The project will also strive to reduce the stigma associated with availing of reproductive and sexual health services and to improve the quality and availability of those services so that young people can feel comfortable frequenting these establishments.

As explained by Khadidiatou Niakhasso, members of the group of hundreds of adolescent leaders in charge of educating and discussing with their peers on sexual health issues:

We educate our peers so that they realize that talking about their health should not be taboo, that we must discuss it with our parents, our fathers, our meters and others. And there are also structures that offer services, either for information or materials if needed.

In the long term, access to information about reproductive and sexual health as well as improvements in the accessibility and quality of such services will contribute to reducing the adverse social and health conditions that are part and parcel of the extreme poverty in Kédougou.

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