Adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights remain a pressing and critical topic in today’s world. As young individuals navigate the complexities of adolescence, it is crucial to understand and address their distinct sexual and reproductive health requirements.
During a side event of the Women Deliver conference held at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel on July 19, a groundbreaking research project was launched. Named the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Exemplars project (ASHER), the research will be conducted in six countries: Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, India, and Nepal.
Jen Kidwell Drake, Women’s Health Lead at Exemplars in Global Health, explained that the goal of ASHER is to identify and highlight the success stories that have not been fully documented, explored, and understood in the selected countries.
Drake emphasized their collaboration with local experts to comprehend how progress was achieved, with the intent of sharing these insights across other countries to collectively make strides in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
The initial step involved identifying countries that had achieved a significant reduction in adolescent fertility beyond the expected average. They then conducted in-depth studies on these specific countries, including Rwanda, to capture valuable insights and share them.
Explaining the selection of Rwanda, Drake pointed out that the country already boasted a relatively low adolescent fertility rate compared to many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers also examined Rwanda’s primary healthcare and under-5 mortality rates, which stood out positively.
Regarding the impact on Rwanda, she highlighted the persisting challenges related to adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights. She added that the study’s findings would guide Rwanda in taking necessary steps and sustaining the current progress, propelling the nation in the right direction.
Looking ahead, the researchers plan to present their findings on a global stage, tentatively scheduled for June 2024.
Speaking during the event, Claude Mambo Muvunyi, Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, expressed excitement about the research showcasing Rwanda’s success. He emphasized the significance of sharing experiences, lessons learned, and challenges with other countries to support decision-making and policymaking.
Muvunyi acknowledged that Rwanda has made progress regarding sexual and reproductive health but recognized that challenges still exist, particularly concerning gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies.
He said that the research findings would help provide young people with the necessary health services to help them reach their full potential, leading to happier, healthier, and more prosperous families, communities, and societies.
Eugene Rutayisire, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Rwanda and ASHER lead in Rwanda, outlined that the research aims to understand the perceptions and experiences of young people regarding the services available to them.
Rutayisire emphasized that it will assist Rwanda by documenting and analyzing the services offered to adolescents, including family planning, awareness, utilization, as well as their impact.
The research project specifically targets adolescents aged 10 to 24, and according to Rutayisire, this age group has been relatively under-researched in terms of their sexual and reproductive health issues.
He further noted that the research will involve interviews with adolescents from ten selected districts across the country to gather data and insights.