Access to sex education and contraceptive choice gives young people the greatest chance of completing their education, forging their careers, and pursuing their dreams.
We aim to empower young people to choose when or whether they have children, so they can fulfil their potential. We do this by increasing access to relevant service delivery channels that offer full contraceptive choice, and through mobilisation which reaches both young people and their influencers.
Young women (who we define as 25 and under) and adolescent girls (who we define as 15-19 years) are typically less likely to use contraception than older women, and the consequences of them becoming pregnant are often worse.
Complications from pregnancy are the second biggest cause of death globally amongst women aged 15-19. As the number of young women who are sexually active but not using contraception continues to grow, it is essential to scale up services that respond to their needs.
Globally, there are 7.4 million adolescent unintended pregnancies each year. It's the second leading cause of death for girls aged 15 - 19.
A 16-year-old in the Ethiopian highlands is more likely to be working her family’s fields and preparing for marriage, than visiting a youth centre or downloading an app.
Often, when we think about young people, we make a number of assumptions about who they are.
We might think first of urban youth, those in full-time education, young people socialising with their friends or glued to their smartphones. Such assumptions can be dangerous and misleading.
Across our programs, three quarters of those under 25 are living in rural areas, whose life experiences are often jarringly different from those living in urban settings. As a group, rural youth are less likely to continue education past a primary level, and are more likely to marry and have children young. In Niger for example, half of women have given birth before their 18th birthday.
We understand that – no matter how available contraception is or how affordable we make it – young people are unlikely to use it if they feel they will be stigmatised or punished for doing so. In many of the countries where we work, conservative attitudes towards premarital sex can make it difficult for young women to even talk about contraception, much less use it.
If I had gotten pregnant while I was at school then I wouldn't have been able to finish my education. Since coming to the clinic I feel like I have a future.
In 2020 one in six of our clients were adolescents aged 15-19.
We know we can and must do better, and a number of our programmes are already driving this figure higher. In Mali, around a quarter of all clients last year were adolescents, and in Sierra Leone it was nearly a third. This is important because, right now, there are 620 million people in the developing world aged between 15 and 19 years old.
Globally, this age group represents one-fifth of all people of reproductive age. Not only are young people and adolescents under-represented among users of modern contraception, they are more likely to take drastic measures when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. For every 10 women hospitalised as the result of unsafe abortion, seven are under the age of 20.
"I think if these girls are able to access these services without being criticised, it would really help them to achieve what they want."
Our team members are trained to serve young people and adolescents with respect and without judgement, and to challenge prejudices about who should be accessing contraception.
It is vital that contraceptive services are provided in a way that young women – including young unmarried women – feel safe, supported and empowered.
At MSI, we are committed to training and supporting all our team members to serve the young people and adolescents they encounter with respect and without judgement, and to challenge any prejudices about who should be accessing contraception – including their own.
For services to be successful, they must also be sustainable, and we have made a commitment to our clients – whatever age they are – that our services will be there for the long term.
If we can get these things right, we will not only encourage more young women and adolescent girls to learn about contraception services earlier, we will also ensure that their experience is positive so they will return again and again.
We serve women, young people, communities and those living in fragile states, empowering them with the freedom to choose when or if they have children.
MSI works with women and girls all over the world, empowering them to choose when or whether to have children.
Our teams belong to the communities they serve, building meaningful relationships that help them break down barriers and reach as many people as possible.
Sexual and reproductive healthcare is a life-saving component of any humanitarian response. We work in partnership to reach women in fragile states, conflict zones, and during natural disasters.