Youth are often the driving force behind structural change. They are invested in and have the ability to make change for themselves and their futures, but often lack true opportunities to actively participate in decision making.
Despite significant contributions advocating for youth-friendly health services and sharing information on health rights, they’re often left out of policy, finance, governance, and advocacy conversations, even when those conversations are about them. This may be one factor in the lack of social protection benefits available to children globally.
Recent data shows that 1.46 billion youth and children (those up to age fifteen) worldwide received no child or family cash benefits, and for low- and middle-income countries specifically, the proportion of those receiving these benefits was only 20.9%.
In October, USAID awarded the US$20 million Promoting Results and Outcomes through Policy and Economic Levers (PROPEL) Youth and Gender project, to a consortium of partners including Palladium, CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality (CHOICE), the Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs (CCP), with leading partner, the International Youth Foundation (IYF). PROPEL Y&G is one of a suite of four PROPEL projects, including PROPEL Health, which is currently implemented by Palladium in 17 countries globally.
This new five-year project will focus on similar target areas to its sister initiative PROPEL Health to improve the enabling environment for a more equitable, responsive, and sustainable health system to increase access to health services, supplies, and information, including voluntary family planning/reproductive health and integration of these areas with HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health, through partnering with local stakeholders to advance policy, financing, advocacy, and governance.
What sets PROPEL Y&G apart is its specific focus on improving accessibility to inclusive, respectful healthcare and sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes for youth and people of all genders across all life stages.
People in these populations are important to reach and engage because they are often denied access to appropriate care due to social stigmas or norms and discriminatory practices. For example, in some settings, youth are unable to access contraceptives without parental consent, and women are not allowed to receive antenatal care without their male partner present.
“This project aims to meaningfully engage local youth- and gender-led organisations to strengthen youth and gender related policy, financing, advocacy and governance,” explains Robert Kolesar, the project’s Deputy Director for Policy and Financing.
Improving health outcomes overall depends on improving gender and health equity as well. “Youth in particular have huge potential to create social, political, and economic change,” says Sarah Pennington, Palladium Senior Technical Advisor for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning. “That potential is not being realised because many of the approaches and programs and strategies to target them leave them out of the conversation.”
“In a similar vein, women, young boys, girls, and people of all gender and sexual identities, are often not considered a holistic person, and they can face discrimination and disparities in their health access or access to quality healthcare or education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Close to 90% of adolescents reside in low- and middle-income countries in which they may not have access to quality and/or reliable health services, so the population in need is large, giving PROPEL Y&G an opportunity to identify innovative, locally driven approaches to address critical, systemic challenges to strengthen access to quality healthcare, particularly for youth and people of all genders.
Each partner within the PROPEL Y&G consortium brings a unique skillset. Pennington highlights that the IYF brings a strong background working in positive youth development and youth workforce development, while CHOICE is a youth-led organisation with expertise in capacity strengthening of young people and youth-led organisations related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, advocacy, and meaningful participation. CCP provides experience with advocacy and behaviour change communication, and Palladium will lead on the policy and financing components.
“The people being left out of the important conversations deserve to have the same health access and rights,” says Kolesar. The project aims to develop and implement policies and financing related to quality family planning and reproductive health services that are inclusive, sustainable, and responsive and will monitor their implementation to ensure equity and quality.
PROPEL Y&G aims to ensure that inclusion in access to quality healthcare is a reality for all, and that those that are often excluded become leaders and changemakers in the process.
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