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1. What would teens seek out of the help centers?
The proposed community youth centers are not help centers per say but rather a model one stop center aimed at providing youth with hearing impairments access to helpful SHR information and services (where possible) by interfacing with service providers as well as skills for life and work as an incentive for participation and a way to ensure that the young people are able to gain a decent livelihood which in turn affects their SHR lives. Research shows that when people have access to a decent income, they are better able to take charge of their SRH lives by having options to critical services and avoiding risky behaviors that may put them at risk. From these centers, the targeted youth will gain access to age appropriate SRH information, products and services coupled with skills development for life and work. Where possible, the centers will create interlinkages with service providers to provide information, counselling and some family planning products dispensed at community level including pills and short term injectables.
2. Why would parents let them come? It would be great to learn more about the behavior change that would require teens to come to these classes: what is the incentive to come?
From our experience and additional research, we have determined that integration of services is the best approach to ensure sustainable solutions to youth SRH services. In resource constrained environments, where economic pressures take priority, standalone SRH initiatives are unlikely to be successful. We believe that in areas such as Nyagatare District where livelihood pressures are high, creating an avenue for young people to gain skills for life and work alongside SRH services and information will be a great incentive to parents to allow them to participate. By creating opportunities to gain critical skills, we will be supporting the young people to diversify their livelihoods options which remains a strong incentive for the youth in the region. For young people with disabilities in rural Rwanda, stigma remains high and there are few opportunities and initiatives targeted towards them. Most of them remain at home with their families feeling that they are unable to succeed in anything. Such an initiative, targeted specifically to youth with hearing impairment, we believe will provide a much needed avenue for parents to meaningfully engage their children. Research shows that potential synergies between youth, enterprise, livelihoods and reproductive health are immense and that integrated services provides the most feasible approach to successful initiatives by providing critical information and knowledge as well as incentives for youth to ensure meaningful participation.
Finally, in rural Rwanda, reproductive health discussions are shunned. Parents find it hard to discuss such issues with their children. While parents understand the importance of this discussion, cultural barriers prevent them for doing so. We believe, by providing a platform for young people with disabilities to access SRH information and knowledge, we will have removed a significant barrier for the parents in discussing such issues with their children. Our aim is not to replace the critical conversations that should be happening between children and parents, but to create a bridge and safe space to for these discussions to happen. To ensure this, we will ensure that we work towards behavior change both at community level (working with parents and service providers) and the youth themselves through the centers to open up spaces and demystify sexual and reproductive health issues. [ additional comments to expert feedback attached as PDF]