Learning partnerships to support gender-transformative innovations in adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health in South Africa
South Africa is facing a complex set of historic and current inequalities straddling race, class, gender, geography, disabilities and sexual orientation. Adolescents constitute almost one-fifth of South Africa’s population. Rising rates of school dropouts and unemployment – further heightened since COVID-19 – are among the determinants influencing the lives of these young women and men. Of women between 15-19 years, 16% have begun childbearing, and among this group, only 52% were reported to be attending school. This age group faces a high burden of sexual and gender-based violence and, despite decreasing HIV incidence in South Africa since 2012, HIV remains high among female youth. Positively influencing these root causes of gender inequality requires gender-transformative approaches that look toward deep changes in how society is structured and how it accords privileges to some groups while discriminating against others.
This project will create a collaborative community-based learning platform to support dialogue, exchange and capacity strengthening on gender-transformative approaches in adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights and services. The platform builds on a multi-sectoral program called “My Journey”, which delivers comprehensive biomedical, behavioural and structural support and services to adolescent girls and boys aged 10-24 in South Africa. With plans to scale up to 13 health sub-districts across all nine provinces, the learning platform will be piloted in Klipfontein in Cape Town, based on its high HIV prevalence, high adolescent-pregnancy rates and high levels of poverty.
The project will support community dialogues, photo-voice and youth-focused social media campaigns, newsletters, policy briefs, conference presentations and peer-reviewed journal articles. Expected outcomes include strengthened voice and agency of adolescents in all their diversity; increased awareness, skills and mobilization among families, communities, youth groups and government departments to support gender-transformative programs and actions; data systems that are more responsive to gender-transformative service delivery and reporting; and more responsive policies and related resources dedicated to gender-transformative changes.