We believe that upholding adolescents’ rights to sexual and reproductive health reduces gender-based sexual violence and improves health.
Improving children’s sexual and reproductive health and knowledge
Many young people are not aware of their sexual and reproductive health rights, and don’t have access to the right information to make informed decisions in this critical aspect of their lives. Parents, caregivers and schools do not always carry out their responsibilities to provide children and young people with the information and support they need through the different phases of their developing sexuality. This is due to a wide range of factors such as lack of awareness and skills, power imbalances, lack of resources and other deep-rooted systemic inequalities. Gaining awareness and access is critical in children’s and young people’s efforts to claim their rights and determine their futures.
Our work in this area is heavily focused on collaborating with young people and their communities to promote informed and practical initiatives, both within schools and beyond and to learn about their rights. This extends to supporting young people’s organisations to advocate for better sexual health services and to actively involve them in improving the services they are entitled to.
Increasing quality and access to sexual and reproductive health services
Young people face a number of obstacles to obtaining sexual and reproductive health services. These barriers relate to availability and accessibility as well as the quality of the services provided. For example, laws and policies may limit young people’s access to services and contraceptives, and health centres may only address the needs of married women.
Research shows that only a minority of sexually active adolescent women who have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) seek care in a health facility. Compared with older women, adolescents also tend to take longer to recognise their pregnancies and are more likely to have unsafe abortions. Pregnancy and childbirth continue to be a leading cause of death for adolescent girls aged 15-19.
To address this, SCOEN is working in alliance with civil society organisations and governments to improve and expand sexual health services that respond to the needs of their young clients.
Through our programmes, we work to ensure young people can access adolescent and youth-friendly health services that provide correct sexual and reproductive health information, modern contraceptives, STI/HIV and pregnancy tests as well as a range of other services. We also work to ensure community members (including community leaders, parents and other care givers) are well informed about how health services can help children and youth and we engage them to support the provision of these services.
SCOEN listens to adolescents and works with them to tailor youth-friendly health services to the local context, based on a careful situational analysis of the health and needs among young people.
Ending sexual violence and harmful practices
We recognise that practices such as early marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and sexual violence are violations of girls’ and boys’ sexual health rights. These often have severe and deep-rooted negative impacts on children’s and young people’s physical and psychological well-being, their sense of self-worth and their successful future development.
SCOEN is dedicated to mobilising parents, community leaders, government authorities and other children and young people to identify, analyse, understand and end the harmful practices and sexual violence children and young people face.
Together we advocate to improve legal frameworks and to ensure they are being effectively implemented. A key element to our approach is to give young people a voice in this process, to involve them – particularly girls – and to empower them to claim their rights to a safer, more fulfilling life.