This post is written by Callie Simon and originally appeared on Pathfinder International’s Field Journal in June 2011.
It’s astounding to think that there are 3 billion people under the age of 25 alive today, 1.8 billion of whom are between 10 and 24 years of age. I firmly believe that these young people—if they are healthy and empowered—can be productive, influential members of their communities and their countries. Unfortunately, young people are currently facing remarkably high rates of early marriage, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as severely limited access to jobs, education, and political participation.
To address these challenges and give young people the opportunities they need to thrive, young people, national governments, and the international community are calling for multisectoral programs. Multisectoral programs acknowledge that young people’s problems are interconnected and include strategies to address two or more of the sectors that are central to young people as they transition into adulthood: health, education, livelihoods, and civic engagement. In multisectoral programs, each intervention plays a role in improving outcomes in the other sectors—just as the problems young people face are intertwined, so too are their solutions.
After working with diverse young people in different regions of the world, I agree that multisectoral programs are important for holistic youth development—but too often sexual and reproductive health is ignored. If multisectoral programs are to reach their full potential, they must include a strong sexual and reproductive health component. International research and Pathfinder’s experience shows that programs to prevent early marriage, unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections not only improve young people’s health, but also result in noteworthy gains in education, livelihoods, and civic engagement.
The graphic above—an excerpt from our recent publication—illustrates exactly this point. It shows that young people’s journey to adulthood is fraught with difficulties and their sexual and reproductive health needs must be met in order for investments in other sectors to be beneficial. Only then can young people stay the course and fully contribute to the economic and social development of their communities
The newest publication from Pathfinder’s 3 Billion Reasons Campaign builds on this graphic and uses compelling data to argue that sexual and reproductive health must be a part of any multisectoral youth program. I encourage you to read it and visit our Three Billion Reasons campaign page for more information, including how you can get involved.