By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver
Young people around the world often face barriers in accessing comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. That is why PATH and the China Family Planning Association implemented a comprehensive program to meet the needs and improve the health of China’s young people.
Frequently, young people in China move from rural areas to cities to pursue higher education and jobs. Cut off from their families and exposed to be new experiences and temptations, they are vulnerable due to a lack of family and community support. Additionally, many of them have poor knowledge and communication skills surrounding topics like romantic relationships, sex, contraception, condoms, and sexually transmitted infections, putting them at an increased risk.
The program recognizes this situation and bases its trainings in vocational schools and factories where young people, mostly young migrants, go to learn life skills. Yangzong, for example, moved to an urban center in China in her teens to attend vocational school. There, using games, role-playing, and discussions, she learned how to set life goals and avoid common pitfalls. “I learned a lot of information about drugs, AIDS, and sex,” Yangzong said. Inspired, she has become a peer educator and has helped more than 500 students in her school become better equipped to lead healthy and educated lives.
In most cases, the program first trains the human resources managers of specific sites. These managers return to their workplaces and pass on the knowledge and skills to the students or employees. One company, based in Shenzhen, employs more than 10,000 people in 40 sites throughout the country. After the project was carried out there, the dropout rate among female employees due to unintended pregnancies fell from almost 31 percent to 20 percent. A human resource manager at the company told PATH, “I am so glad to see that our employees now have a clearer goal leading to a happy life and have learned useful skills.”
Many businesses were initially cautious about engaging in a program about these topics. However, demonstrations of support and encouragement from local governments convinced them. Now, the business community sees these trainings as a win-win and some business leaders even donated to the project. One factory supervisor told PATH that, “The project presents huge benefits for us. It teaches our workers skills needed to protect themselves against abuse and unwanted pregnancy. This will ultimately boost our productivity.” Participants have also responded enthusiastically to the educational, interactive project.
By the time the project ended, it had become a model of success. PATH and the China Family Planning Association initially piloted the program in 12 major cities and two rural counties. It was then expanded to more than 200 additional countries with funding from the Chinese government and UNFPA. Youth programming has also become a pivotal feature of China’s Family Planning Association’s five-year strategic plan because of the project’s success.
Most importantly, pointed out peer educator Yangzong, the project has had an impact on thousands of young people in China who now have the information and skills to lead healthy, educated, and productive lives. She says, “The practical knowledge and skills in the project may not only change the fate of a person, but also the fate of a nation.”
Flickr photo via Ming Xia