World Contraception Day was launched in the year 2007 dedicated to creating awareness around contraception and to enable the youth to be able to make informed and educated decisions regarding sexual health.
The Global Problem
As per a UNICEF’s Report, India has 253 million adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years. This number is expected to reach half a billion in the next 10 years. At least 10 million unintended pregnancies occur each year among adolescent girls between the age group of 15-19 yrs in the developing world. 44% of the total pregnancies around the world were unwanted between 2010-2014, resulting in abortions, miscarriages and unplanned births leading to greater health problems.
Gaps in meeting youth’s sexual and reproductive health needs continue to be one of the challenging concerns. As per the Condomology report released by Condom Aliliance earlier this year, 22% of the buyers of sex products are in the age group of 18-24 and 44% of them are 25–34 year-old, That helps us to understand that the young people in India are interested and sexually active, but somehow lacks the guidance necessary to enjoy a safe and healthy experience.
The Challenges faced by Youth
The challenges faced by youth are such as lack of knowledge and information on right choices of contraception, access to confidential, comfortable, and available services. Some of the more challenges & issues around contraceptives through the youth’s perspective are:
- The stigma and taboo associated with sexual and reproductive health prevent young people from accessing services.
- Numerous behavioral, structural, informational, and socio-cultural barriers.
- Perceived psychological barriers such as hesitance & shyness and cultural taboos related to premarital sex and the abandonment by parents finding out about visits to public sexual and reproductive health services is a crucial concern.
- Lack of confidentiality & judgment in the services provided by health practitioners and attaining inclusive abortion care can be particularly challenging.
- Not so youth-friendly pharmacy services when it comes to contraceptives
One of the important questions is why youth do not use contraceptives despite wanting to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. The reasons could be manifold depending from person to person. One of the most known methods of contraception is condoms and as per a report titled ‘Investing in the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents in India’ co-authored by Rachel Murro, Rhea Chawla, Souvik Pyne, Shruti Venkatesh and Elizabeth Sully, that states 48% of adolescent women and their partners rely on male condoms as a method of modern contraception.
As per data from National Youth Policy of India, 2014, young people aged 15-29 years comprise 27.5% of India’s population which means a lot of education & capacity building of youth & infrastructures should be done to cater and educate such a large population who is the future of the nation. Information about rights to bodily liberation and how to lead healthy lives should be of utmost importance in designing interventions related to SRHR space.This is exacerbated by provider bias, lack of accurate information, and a safe space to access these services and to discuss such issues.
The webinar was moderated by Ms. Arzoo Garg, a youth representative on the panel and youth focal point SRHR, The YP Foundation.
Panelist, Mr. Anjan Sen, Commercial Lead – India region, Organon India Private Limited highlighted the importance of 5A’s for observing markets.
1. Assured Quality – This means the level of evidence that a product or service is consistently efficacious and safe. There is a gap in quality of services provided across the nation such as differences in urban & rural gap in access to contraception & health care, gender gap in quality of services.If addressing Adolescent girls from rural areas, they have higher rates of unmet needs.
2. Appropriate Design – Degree to which possibilities the product is acceptable, with the presence of choice, and ease of use/usability
3. Awareness – the extent to which end users, healthcare providers, and key influencers can make informed choices about product use
4. Access & Availability – Capacity and stability of supply to meet demand; and consistency of local access at retail & service delivery points
5. Affordability: Extent to which the price point maximizes market efficiency between payers and suppliers to support health outcomes.
In a research from Murro et al., 2021, 63% of adolescents from richer households and 77% of adolescents from poorer households have unmet needs of modern contraception.
The webinar focused on building effective programming and advocacy for adolescents and youth on sexual health, as well as family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Dr. Jaydeep Tank, Immediate Past Secretary General, FOGSI, pointed out promotion of quality, youth-friendly services such as health clinics; sexual education in schools; building systems between schools and youth-friendly health clinics; and community assistance interventions.
Panelist Ms. Moni Sagar, Division Chief (Family Health Division), USAID India added that Private & development sectors could play a crucial role in reaching & connecting the last mile to the services. Private sector can also help in signing innovative & affordable health care services to youth.
Private and development sectors can also come together and partner together to overcome this issue. Collaboration of private & development sectors could prove to help utilize the full capabilities. Private-sector channels must be bolstered to ensure high-quality and comprehensive care, especially for adolescents & youths. The development sector could focus on spacing births, community- and school-based programs. Contemporary platforms such as digital & social marketing should be promoted encompassing social media campaigns, to reach youth unable to attain care through conventional platforms.
In her remarks, Ms. Moni pointed out that only awareness is not enough, practitioners need to address the gender norms, root causes of the problem such as early marriage, gender-based violence & burden on women, etc. Men & boys too need to be involved in planning the outcome.
Also, interventions & strategies should be made keeping in mind the youth & their contraceptive needs. To ensure equity in access to services a rights-based policy framework is yearned.
Answering a question asked by a participant, Mr. Ravi Bhatnagar, Director External Affairs & Partnerships, Reckitt and Co-Chairperson ASSOCHAM CSR Council said that there should be youth involvement in conceptualizing, designing, assessing, executing, monitoring and evaluating programs and policies that affect them. He also highlighted the need to do an ethnographic study on the needs of today’s youth. He also focused on the concept of pleasure and suggested that these contraceptives can be looked at from a pleasure providing lens and not just public health solutions.
Dr. Anantha Krishnan, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation added that we should try to shift the narrative to buy contraceptives to the normal side and gave an example of how we can buy a totally unhealthy drink and not get the judgement from the society but the situation is different with buying contraceptives. He also emphasised the need to have a multi-stakeholder approach by bringing together youth organisations, policy makers, civil society and private sector in bringing the desired change.
MASH Project Foundation will be launching its flagship program on SRHR supported by Condom Alliance, Reckitt and ASSOCHAM that will make youth aware, and build their capacities to create safer communities on the campus and beyond. It will also invite innovative ideas from youth that will make the information and contraceptives more accessible. We’re committed to work with different stakeholders and facilitate more partnerships which creates a safer & healthier world for our young people. Please follow us on our social media handles as we share more details on the program in the following days.
Murro, R., Chawla, R., Pyne, S., Venkatesh, S., & Sully, E. (2021, April 7). Adding it Up: Investing in the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents in India. Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://www.guttmacher.org/report/adding-it-up-investing-in-sexual-reproductive-health-adolescents-india