Africa’s population boom offers a major opportunity to improve living standards across the continent. As the world’s largest youth population approaches working age there are calls for greater investment in their healthcare, to create a generation of healthy and productive workers. With the potential demographic dividend totalling up to USD 500 billion a year for the next three decades, it is vital to secure investment in young people’s health to enable them to create this economic growth.
Approximately 8 million girls aged 15-19 have an unmet need for family planning across Africa, yet young people struggle to secure political will and investment for these services. E4A-MamaYe has been working in Bungoma County to promote these voices, providing training to help them advocate for youth-orientated healthcare provision.
To increase generational diversity, E4A-MamaYe has pursued three main approaches. Firstly, the programme has created opportunities for youth-led civil society to talk with County Health Management Teams (CHMT) and discuss which services are needed and how they could be financed. E4A-MamaYe helped prepare young people before they entered these discussions, ensuring they were equipped with data and facts, enabling them to provide convincing, evidence-based contributions. The second approach focused on developing programme-based budgets within CHMTs, safeguarding funding for adolescent family planning services. Finally, a scorecard system was introduced to assess health services, comparing them against local healthcare priorities and establishing whether the commitments made to improve adolescent health have been fulfilled.
This three-pronged approach has proved successful, with young people becoming more engaged and politically active following the E4A-MamaYe training. There have been tangible changes, with the county’s new ‘Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan for Bungoma’ including more youth-centred services. Young people have scrutinised decision-makers and the political process, demanding greater access to information and requesting documents to ensure policies stay on track. “The knowledge and skills gained during the training has assisted me in understanding the budget cycle,” Rahma Issa, a member of the Bungoma Youth Council, explains. “[It helped me establish] critical points within the cycle where my voice can have optimal impact.”
Increased youth presence has also been welcomed by many officials. “We have come to appreciate their value in championing for more resource allocation and guarding the resource envelope,” a Bungoma County Director of Health commented. As youth-led civil society in Bungoma becomes more informed they will be able to secure greater interest and investment in their futures and their healthcare services.
These results from Bungoma County suggest that training can help build young people’s capacity to join political discussions. This leads to an increase in healthcare targeted at this age group and has the potential to remove barriers which currently limit access to contraception.