Pathfinder Interntional

Reach Him: Engaging Boys in Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Reproductive health care

Reach Him transforms teen pregnancy prevention by recognizing boys as an essential audience for sexual health programming, helping to save the lives of girls worldwide.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Worldwide, pregnancy is the leading cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls. Teen pregnancy also alters lives: ending educations, spurring child marriages, increasing social isolation and dependency, and diminishing the health and wealth of every society. The burden of teen pregnancy prevention has been borne almost exclusively by girls. We propose to transform the inequitable discourse around teen pregnancy to include boys as positive forces in their own sexual and reproductive lives and in doing so, prevent deaths and promote the futures of girls. Working through global networks and in targeted countries, we will launch segmented communications campaigns to engage boys as part of the solution to teen pregnancy; increase access to community-based services; and advocate for policies affirming the sexual health of boys as essential to preventing teen pregnancy. The result will be healthier girls and boys, lives saved, and boys who will grow up to respect women.

Problem Statement

Every day in developing countries over 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth. Teen pregnancy rates in the United States are substantially higher than in other industrialized nations [1], [2], and if all pregnancies are included, not just births, this number is even higher. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls globally. In addition to the physical consequences, pregnancy at this age alters lives. Educations end. Children are forced into marriage. Financial prospects disappear. Vulnerabilities, isolation and dependency multiply. The effects of adolescent pregnancy have a ripple effect, diminishing the health and wealth of every society and compromising the ability of countries to reap the benefits of the ‘demographic dividend’ that the coming youth population bulge can bring. Despite the biological realities of pregnancy causation and the often-shared psycho-social characteristics that predispose girls and boys to too-early parenthood, disproportionate blame and burden for teen pregnancy prevention has been borne by girls. By relegating fertility and its management to girls, boys are largely excluded from the conversation and benefits of SRH services and education which imparts knowledge, encourages self-and social awareness, promotes gender equity and reproductive rights, and helps young people make healthy and informed decisions as individuals and couples. With their exclusion, boys are often left uninformed, lacking a language regarding emotions and sexuality and may be ill-equipped to enter healthy sexual relationships and make potentially life-saving decisions about pregnancy and disease prevention.

Solution Overview

By changing the discourse around teen pregnancy prevention to include boys as positive forces in their own SRH and sexual relationships, we can save the lives of young girls. This shift will also lead to a more comprehensive understanding of teen pregnancy and open the door to global programming, services, and policies that prepare boys for healthy, empathetic, and equitable sexual and family lives. Reach Him encompasses three mutually and geographically reinforcing phases. The communication campaign phase will include a segmented media campaign that targets the global network of SRH leaders as well as specific country contexts. The campaigns will shift the language and imagery around teen pregnancy prevention and change social norms regarding boys and their SRHR. The field work phase focuses on delivering new or enhanced local services for boys and their SRHR needs. These services aim to impart knowledge, encourage self-and social awareness, promote gender equity, and help boys and girls make informed decisions as individuals and couples. The policy change phase will partner with United Nations organizations, donors, and ministries of health to drive changes in global and national policies (and funding). Changes will also include guidelines that recognize boys as essential components of programming to prevent teen pregnancy. Collectively these changes, over time, will create an enabling environment for boys and girls to relate to one another equitably and respectfully and make healthy individual and joint decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives and futures.

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