Over the past month, I was busy planning workshops to talk to young people from Georgia about contraception and to teach them how to use storytelling tools. While travelling to different regions of Georgia, I visited three villages, where I met inspiring young people who shared their stories and realities of their life and were candid issues within their villages. Interest to attend the workshops was high and it motivated me even more. I contacted local organizations and spread the word about the workshops and was able to secure free training space for every meeting.
I was curious to see how young people would perceive and react to the topic with my expectations fluctuating during the planning process. My worries were gone when I finished the first workshop in Telavi. This was validation that young people should be engaged in planning, creating, and coordinating sexual and reproductive health programs. After the meeting in Telavi, I knew that A Story Map of Youth Voices was alive.
I continued my travels which brought me to Batumi, the capital city of western Georgia. During the workshops every participant was asked to fill out a survey created for the project. Most of the young people expressed dissatisfaction because they didn’t know contraception methods or topics mentioned in the survey although most of young people knew that those issues were affecting them and are part of their life. My third stop was Rustavi. Coincidentally, the workshop coincided with World Contraception Day, on September 26th. The Head of Administration from the Governors office, Mr. Levan Jhvania, joined us during the workshop to highlight the importance of access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services. The event as broadcast on local television and I was able to talk about World Contraption Day and the goals of the A Story Map of Youth Voices project in Georgia.
Some of the most salient issues the young people expressed during the workshops:
- Youth reproductive health and rights are a low priority for their communities, yet most of the participants feel the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in and out of schools that impact the health outcomes of their peers. Young people feel that youth SRHR and contraception is not open for discussion, still tabooed in the families and communities, resulting in is a lack of awareness of reproductive and sexual rights and health issues.
- There is inadequate access to family planning information and services. Young people feel a lot of pressure, lack of confidentiality, and experience shame when accessing reproductive health services. Even though some young people have access to contraception through non-governmental organizations these services are not available to most of young people, especially in rural and mountainous regions.
- There is unmet contraceptive need and there are high numbers of teenage pregnancies. In some regions, girls are dropping out of school due to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections rate, including HIV/AIDS, are rapidly growing. These are both of major concern for young people.
- Young people’s ability to vocalize these issues is something that needs to be supported and encouraged. Even though young people talked about existing issues within the workshop, a challenge remains in telling the story to a larger audience.
Most of the dialogue at the workshops was exploring the ways in which we can start the conversation about youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. Involving youth in SRH programming and breaking down barriers to youth being able access and use services is paramount. There is a need to tell #YouthStories about #SRHR and #contraception only through doing so can sustainable development, both economically and socially, be realized.
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.