Meaningfully Engaging Young Transformational Leaders in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, for Impact
Contributors: Fatima Sow and Matié Yanogo
In Koudougou, Burkina Faso, The Challenge Initiative (TCI) is supporting the local government to improve access to family planning and adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) services. Before engaging with TCI, the local government had observed that young people were not well-organized or confident in their ability to transform society and the environments in which they live and work to improve their health. They did hold small discussion meetings in local youth centers but were unable to reach a broad audience of their peers or leaders about AYSRH issues.
Ms. Eunice Wanda, Head of Nursing and Obstetric Care for the health district, shared:
With the arrival of TCI, especially in recent quarters, significant changes have been made by strengthening the skills of young people. Indeed, thanks to TCI, 50 young people [also referred to as Young Transformational Leaders, JLT] were trained on leadership and advocacy approaches and as a result have engaged in talks about FP/AYSRH, utilizing new communication technologies to reach a broad audience. With these new skills, the JLT were able to formalize their association with the support of the municipality and the district. These young people have learned to participate in meetings as a stakeholder in deciding their future. They have carried out talks with friends as well as institutions, such as universities, to sensitize young people to not only FP/AYSRH issues but also the policies and frameworks guiding FP/AYSRH programming and service delivery. They have also seized opportunities to participate in community-based activities, carry out advocacy to support health centers to have idea boxes that will be used to assess not only provider bias but also perceived youth-friendliness of these centers. As a result of these changes, we have seen that young people are able to impact change and are ambitious to do even more. Some have been integrated into other similar FP/AYSRH projects to boost results at the district level as well.”
At the individual level, more young people are confident and capable of raising awareness about issues affecting them, supporting health workers to raise awareness within the community and interacting with the health system and municipality as a key stakeholder in addressing FP/AYSRH issues. At the community and city level, young people are increasingly going to health centers, adopting contraceptive methods and being more open to discuss sexual and reproductive health issues. Ms. Wanda summarized the impact that TCI’s meaningful youth engagement approach has had in Koudougou:
In short, the community is starting to ease up on certain issues that have been commonly considered taboo related to AYSRH. Another even more important point is that the Koudougou commune now sees the JLT as capable of mobilizing resources for the implementation of health activities, in particular FP / AYSRH activities. This is an especially important recognition, given that the technical and financial support of implementing partners is becoming increasingly rare. They have also become relays with the communities in terms of sensitization on FP/AYSRH issues.”
According to Dr. Sylvain Soubeiga, Chief Medical Officer of Koudougou Health District, the most significant change that he has witnessed is the enthusiasm of the Young Transformational Leaders:
They have become effective advocates with leaders, successful at mobilizing their peers, a critical presence in the activities of the municipality and a daily presence in debates on FP/AYSRH issues using new information and communication technologies.”
As a result, the city of Koudougou is committed to continuing its meaningful engagement with young people even beyond the period of TCI’s direct support.