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Promoting the SRHR of Adolescent and Young Mothers

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Cecilia García Ruiz, Espolea (Mexico)

As the Adolescent and Youth Motherhood Project (AYMP) draws to a close, there are a few highlights that are worth sharing.

As mentioned in previous posts, it is important that human rights advocates have a deep understanding of the diverse realities, needs, interests and expectations of the populations they seek to benefit and reach. When working with adolescent and young mothers the first lesson to be learned is: do not take anything for granted. This means, for instance, that we cannot assume that adolescent and young mothers have more information and tools to access quality sexual and reproductive health services than any other young person in their community. Misconceptions about their experiences with the healthcare system are common. Very often, we find that a significant percentage of these young women have faced discrimination and violence from health providers, education workers, peers, and even members from their own families and communities.

Given this context, creating friendly and safe spaces for adolescent and young mothers to interact, bond, and learn about their sexual and reproductive health and rights is essential. Moreover, in the continuum of SRHR advocacy, these young women become allies and key stakeholders in the efforts to develop more and better sexual and reproductive health policies, including effective accountability mechanisms. In other words, different areas of opportunities should be explored to continue to improve access to modern contraceptives, family planning services, timely sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing, as well as comprehensive sexual health services. 

The second lesson to be learned is: the needs of adolescent and young mothers are linked to their children’s needs. Traditional gender roles and stereotypes have left adolescent and young mothers with the burden of child-rearing activities with little, and sometimes no, involvement from their male partners. While family and community networks play an important role in this sense, we should not forget that the government has a direct responsibility as well.

Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of our project was developing a flexible methodology and adapting our work spaces for mothers to attend the focus groups and the workshops with their children. Overall, this was quite an enriching experience that highlighted the need to incorporate this perspective in future initiatives and in the policy recommendations that will be presented by the end of the project. It is noteworthy that this lesson does not imply that the needs of adolescent and young mothers should be subordinated to those of their children. However, it is critical to understand their relationship and the context in which they occur, as well as to avoid stigmatizing their experiences as adolescent and young mothers.

Last but not least, adolescent and young mothers are entitled to use their voice and to participate in decision-making processes within their families, their communities, and their countries. Empowering and fostering the economic, political, and bodily autonomy of these young women means building their capacity to exercise and enforce their rights. This is one of the key components of the AYMP. We have taken the first step, but changes do not happen overnight. We must continue our efforts – carrying out sustainable and replicable strategies and involving more constituencies in the process.

This wonderful journey could not have been possible without the support and guidance of Women Deliver, Johnson & Johnson, and all of the amazing partners of the C-Exchange Youth Initiative. Other important allies that have supported our project in different ways are: the Mexico’s City Youth Institute (INJUVE D.F. is its acronym in Spanish), the local Women’s Institute (Inmujeres, D.F.), Salud Integral para la Mujer (civil society organization), the United Nations Population Fund in Mexico, and the local Commission on Human Rights (CDHDF). To all of them, thank you.

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