One of our key areas of collaboration with Population Foundation of India has been PFI’s programme in Rajasthan to create an enabling environment on Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (AYSRHR) needs. Creating a robust, implementable and timebound strategy for prioritisation of AYSRHR in Rajasthan and also supporting the creation of toolkits to facilitate the strategy was the focus of this collaboration.
Facts first: For any successful advocacy effort, especially those that seek to create an enabling policy environment, it is critical to invest in understanding the perceptions, priorities and willingness to engage among opinion leaders and policy makers. Out formative phase of designing PFI’s advocacy strategy focused on getting these insights. As a first step we studied the evidence on adolescent health in the state and the key lacunae in policy and programming for adolescents. Informed by the evidence we met with Members of Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly, regional media, state government officials and other civil society organisations working in the state, for in-depth in-person interactions to understand their engagement. To read more about the opinion analysis study, please click here.
Answers we sought: Are these stakeholders currently engaged with any of the priority concerns that adolescents in Rajasthan face? What issues linked to adolescents are they working on? Why do they engage on some adolescent health concerns? Have they engaged with AYSRHR, and what has their experience been? What facilitates deeper engagement from these quarters? What are the bottlenecks or barriers that prevent a more vigorous championing of AYSRHR concerns?
Many assumptions about the willingness of opinion leaders to engage with AYSRHR were challenged:
Local nudge brings about action: For instance, a popular notion is that elected representatives work on party mandates and vote bank politics only. A nuance we observed is that in the scenario that specific issues are not prioritised by the state or party, panchayat level pressures and recommendations from PRIs go a long way in nudging action.
Adolescents matter: Another encouraging finding was some aspects of AYSRHR were salient top of the mind concerns, especially those linked to the impact of proliferation of internet and media access for young people and gains and fall outs of the same. The programming and policy move towards adolescent health was bringing about more awareness on the need to work with this segment from multiple angles.
Health comes lower in the ladder: Other sectoral insights were validated by this research, like the willingness to work on livelihoods and education was stronger and sexual and reproductive health was not an area of priority for most elected representatives.
Participatory and evidence informed design: The strategy design phase combined the evidences from three key pieces of research - the opinion analysis, a situation analysis of government policies, programmes and schemes dealing with AYSRHR in the state, and a scoping study that on one hand looked at the context and issues of adolescents and youth in the selected districts of Bundi, Karauli and Dungarpur and on the other hand identified potential partner organisations for the programme.
We believe that intensive participation of teams leading and implementing programmes is key to a robust and ‘implementable’ strategic design. We brought together PFI National and Rajasthan State teams in a day-long workshop to review the insights from the research and brainstorm on possible strategic actions to advocate for AYSRHR needs. The exercises during the workshop helped the team ideate on a wide range of solutions to reach out to the different audiences.
The learnings from the workshop informed the final 2-year advocacy strategy framework. The final strategic framework rests on 5 key pillars - working with the government departments and autonomous bodies, influencing the political environment with elected representatives, changing the discourse by working with the media, building strong partnerships with civil society and finally, engaging adolescents to talk about their own issues. To read more about the advocacy strategy, please click here.
As a next step, we are working with PFI to develop knowledge products - factsheets and infographics - that will be used to reach out to range of stakeholders to showcase the need to invest in and prioritise adolescent health. The knowledge products draw on national and state data, helping build linkages between AYSRHR and nutrition, menstruation, education, WASH, and GBV, and providing specific call to action for different stakeholders. To read more about the complete advocacy toolkit, please click here.