In Kafue, Zambia, the challenges adolescent girls and young women face to access reproductive and menstrual health services have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Teenage pregnancies and STIs are on the rise. AEP will enhance its sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health services for its 200+ young women to include: weekly health text messages; monthly access to pregnancy and STI testing; access to monthly consultation and distribution of contraceptives; and access to reusable menstrual products.
Zambia has experienced large numbers of unintended teen pregnancies since the start of COVID-19 due to school shutdowns and limited access to reproductive health services. But teen pregnancy was a challenge before the pandemic. Zambia's most recent Demographic & Health Survey found that 29% of girls under 19 were already mothers. Evidence from past epidemics shows that resources are often diverted from routine healthcare, which further reduces access to sexual and reproductive health services.
AEP will enhance its sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health services for its 200+ young women and adapt to new COVID-19 challenges. New services will include weekly text messages about sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health/rights; monthly access to pregnancy and STI testing; access to monthly health consultation and distribution of contraceptives; and access to reusable pads and menstrual cups. All in-person services will follow COVID-19 safety protocols and have parental consent.
Increasing the accessibility of sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health services and information will ultimately reduce teenage pregnancy and STI rates in our community. AEP integrates leadership development into all of its programs. The young women accessing these services will leverage their leadership skills and sexual, reproductive, and menstrual health knowledge to be effective local advocates for increased access and rights.
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