Exploring the ‘Quality of Life’ Approach for Sexual & Reproductive Health and Contraception with ‘Youth ke Bol’

~ Dasra, UNICEF YuWaah, Restless Development, and Yuvaa, are facilitating a coalition of over 1m young people from across the country

~ The event gives a mainstream platform for young voices about their agency and access to Sexual, Reproductive Health

~ Over 60% of young people see a clear link between access to contraception and fulfilling their aspirations

New Delhi, 27th September 2022: Dasra in association with its partners, government stakeholders, and young people marked World Contraception Day by launching the ‘Youth Ke Bol’ coalition. The first ‘Youth Ke Bol’ event was held at India Habitat Centre, aimed to strengthen young people’s access to contraception, sexual and reproductive health, and family planning to improve their quality of life. Dasra, along with UNICEF YuWaah, Restless Development, and Yuvaa, launched the coalition that will bring together over a million young people from tier 2 and tier 3 towns over the next three years.

According to NFHS-5 data, the use of contraception is much lower among the younger cohort of 15-19- and 20-24-years compared to the overall use of modern contraceptive methods (56.5%). Additionally, adolescent and young women 15-24 years have the highest (17.4%) unmet needs for contraception compared to the higher age cohort of women in India. The YKB coalition is a step toward addressing the basic SRH needs of this cohort. That’s why young people unanimously believe that they need safe spaces like Youth Ke Bol for conversations around SRH, Contraception and Quality of Life.

The event facilitated the engagement of young people with policymakers and private sector stakeholders to mainstream critical linkages between aspirations and agency to make more informed choices in Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH). The event had youth-led panel discussions to kickstart an intergenerational dialogue between young people and decision-makers regarding quality SRH, acknowledging young people’s need for contraception and gender equity, and illustrating the connection between family planning and one’s quality of life, in contexts of young people’s everyday lived realities, needs, and aspirations. This comes at the back of a quick pulse-check survey done with over 370 young people across 8 states in Dasra’s youth network.

Aditi Agrawal, Project Lead, Youth Ke Bol spoke about the event, “Dasra is committed to improving young people’s health and empowerment outcomes. We have long held that the pathway to making these positive shifts is by recognizing and nurturing the leadership and solutions of the youth. Keeping this in mind, we were excited to facilitate Youth Ke Bol with our partners. Through this initiative, we hope to build an enabling environment and create safe digital and offline spaces for young people to have conversations about their sexual and reproductive health and create mechanisms for them to interface with decision-makers to share their solutions. As part of our initial perception study, over 60% of young people saw a clear link between their access to contraception and their ability to access both education and employment. Keeping this in mind, we aim to bring together young Indians from all walks of life and give them a platform to engage with one another, and access accurate information so that India’s young people can realise their dreams and create generational shifts with YKB.”

Commenting on the occasion, Dr. Zoya Rizvi, Deputy Commissioner, Adolescent Health Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said “I would like to commend Youth Ke Bol for beginning the work to build a youth-led coalition that aims to improve young people’s information on sexual and reproductive health. The coalition will help them to understand and realise their health & well – being and further pave the way for an overall better quality of life. Youth Ke Bol can have a catalysing effect , supporting young people to constructively present their insights and recommendations to policy makers.”

“We are happy to support Youth Ke Bol towards building an inclusive and diverse national coalition of young people especially those from vulnerable and marginalized populations to strengthen informed choices that positively influence their own lives. We are encouraged by the vision for Youth Ke Bol to work with youth and build them as champions – to take leadership on issues of their health and decision-making,” said Ms. Medha Gandhi, Country Family Planning Policy Lead, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In order for us to ensure the intergenerational conversation was effective, we spoke to young people across the country about the barriers they face in accessing sexual and reproductive health and potential solutions to ensure improved access to contraception. Dasra was able to compile ‘Youth Speaks’, a collation of insights and recommendations from Advisory Group members and leaders of Youth Ke Bol on access to sexual and reproductive health. Post going through responses of over 370 young people, it can be safely asserted that sexual and reproductive health information and access lead to power and agency to make better life choices.

Young people want SRH information and interventions to be more accessible, available and approachable. While 65% of women and 71% of men respondents said that they have access to trusted information about sexual and reproductive health, there is a need to bridge this gap. Additionally, young people want safe spaces and open dialogues, with 95% of the respondents wishing that all young people in India could confidently walk up to a store and buy reproductive health products including contraceptives.

While youth in India is evolving, their agency and access to SRH needs to be amped up. The lack of information also means the onus of safety falls on the female gender. The Gender Snapshot 2022 report found that at the current rate of progress, closing gaps in legal protections and removing discriminatory laws in the world could take up to 286 years. The report also found that in 2020, women should have shouldered 512 billion hours in unpaid care work.

Shifting the power and agency of SRH to the youth is critical in improving their access to family planning and, in turn, improved quality of life. And for this, ensuring that the youth have safe conversations and information on contraception and sexual health choices is imperative.

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