Recently a kick-off took place for the ASK programme in five of the seven countries involved. This is the three-year programme that offers young people in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and also in Ghana en Senegal ‘Access, Services and Knowledge’ to SRHR. An unique aspect of ASK is the important role played by young people; it is especially a programme for and by youth. Not for nothing is the subtitle: ‘What young people want, what they need.
At the kick-off meetings partner organisations from the seven countries came together, including partners from the North as well as the South. The kick-offs were intended to get to know one another better and to ensure that everyone was moving in the same direction. The collective approach was also discussed concerning for example ‘meaningful youth participation’. This is not yet equally recognised by all partners (one partner has more experience than another) and it was therefore a good opportunity to share experiences.
Strengthening one another
It was also discussed during the kick-offs how the organisations could contribute to the programme and how they could strengthen each other - which spearheads deserved to be tackled first and which initiatives could already be developed. In Senegal for example there is already a website that offers young people some information. However, this information has to be developed and made more comprehensive.
Within ASK there is more attention for (access to) ‘services’. Young people not only receive direct information on SRHR so that they can make independent informed decisions; the SRH services are better suited to needs and information channels and provision of services is more linked. Young people can go to reliable organisations with their questions or problems.
Young people being able to pass on their questions and problems is not enough; we are still a long way from the situation where all doctors and service providers take young people seriously and are open to the issues they want to discuss. For example, in a country such as Pakistan issues are only discussed when one is married. Therefore, the staff of the SRH services are given sensitization training in how to become ‘youth friendly’.
These are just some spearheads of the programme but there is more. The next step now is to draw up work plans. Every partner organisation makes its own plan and the National Programme Coordinator makes a national plan based on this. Certain activities may be given a joint approach – in a particular country or across borders. The expectation is that the work plans will be completed soon as the partner organisations are very enthusiastic to start.
The Access, Services and Knowledge (ASK): what young people want, what young people need’ programme targets young people (10-24 years), including underserved groups, with a specific focus on uptake of SRH services.
The ASK programme is a joint effort by seven organisations: Rutgers WPF, Simavi, Amref Flying Doctors, Choice, dance4life, Stop Aids Now! and IPPF. Child Helpline International is engaged in the programme as a technical partner.
ASK is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has a budget of over 29 million Euro for the period from 2013-2015.