Two Canadian NGOs, CODE and Farm Radio International are working together on a new project that aims to improve access to health information and services for teenage girls and young women in Malawi.
Thanks to funding from the Government of Canada, the two will co-lead a new project which aims to dismantle barriers to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for Malawian girls and women aged 10 to 25 years old, and to support them in making informed sexual and reproductive health (SRH) decisions about their lives and bodies.
The five-year, $12.8 million Innovations in Health, Rights and Development (iHEARD) project will be implemented by a consortium of health, education and communication partners. The project comes thanks to Canada’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Women, Adolescent Girls and Children initiative.
The project will be delivered across Malawi, with a particular focus in the Central Region districts of Dowa, Ntchisi and Lilongwe.
Malawi has one of the highest adolescent birth rates in Africa, and the SRHR of many adolescent girls and young women continue to be undermined and violated by a range of factors including humanitarian situations, stigma and discrimination, harmful gender norms and practices, and a lack of awareness, education and engagement, particularly among men.
Progress has been made in Malawi in recent years, including in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and increasing the use of contraceptives among married women. But challenges remain.
Adolescent girls and young women are also vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, which, like many other places in the world, often goes unreported.
iHeard will combine a range of innovative approaches and tools to improve SRHR practices, increase demand for services, and ensure that services are well placed and ready to meet the needs of women and girls. Through education, CODE will work with local partners to support women and girls through training and production of learning materials. Farm Radio International will work with local partners on communication, using tools like radio, mobile phones, and interpersonal communication to spark conversations across communities. Finally, MSI Reproductive Choices will work to support the health sector itself, ensuring that quality care and new demand for services will be met.
A feminist approach
iHEARD is proud to be part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), which states that a feminist approach is the most effective way to address the root causes of poverty.
Protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls will help them to achieve more equitable access to and control over the resources they need to secure economic and social equality.
The iHEARD project aims to Improve the SRHR of adolescent girls and young women which will contribute directly to poverty reduction by helping them to make informed SRHR decisions about their lives and bodies.
And, through local partnerships in the health, communication and education sectors, the project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Malawian families and communities nationwide.
“Adolescent girls and young women have the ability to thrive and they should be supported in becoming powerful members of society,” said Thokozani Ng'ombe-Mwenyekonde, Farm Radio International’s project lead in Malawi. “We are excited about this opportunity to empower girls and women by addressing and dismantling gender and sexual and reproductive health barriers to help them realize their full potential and live healthier lives.”
In the education sector, CODE and their local partner, Forum of African Women Educationalists Malawi (FAWEMA), will improve gender-transformative education, with a focus on empowering teachers, supporting SRHR knowledge, and combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Farm Radio’s long-time partner and Malawi-based Farm Radio Trust will work on iHEARD project’s communications component by partnering with radio stations to deliver interactive, informative and educational SRH campaigns, along with our other partners Girl Effect, Viamo, and Women and Children First.
In the health sector, the UK-based MSI Reproductive Choices (MSI) and their local partner, Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM), will improve the quality and accessibility of SRH services through BLM clinics nationwide. UK-based Women and Children First (WCF) and their local partner, MaiKhanda, will mobilize communities in SRH problem-solving at the community level.
This project will enhance the links between the prevention of gender-based violence, the improvement of sexual and reproductive health rights and the provision of essential health information and services through the following activities:
- Educational campaigns, community activities, and participatory learning and action groups to ensure women and girls have access to evidence-based information on topics including gender, sexuality, family planning and sexual health, and SGBV
- Building the capacity of local health facility staff and community health workers to provide inclusive and high-quality SRHR services including family planning, abortion care, and SGBV support
- Implementing social and behaviour change campaigns to combat harmful practices and misinformation on SRHR, gender, and sexuality
- Working with adolescent girls and young women and their communities to support SRHR advocacy
Photo credit: Farm Radio International