Since 2010, I have worked at FHI 360 on the youth team in our Research Utilization Unit. At FHI 360, I provide support for adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive (AYSRH) and mHealth research activities as well as technical assistance to country offices in developing work plans and in executing programs. I contribute to the global knowledge base on AYSRH by developing web content and co-authoring peer reviewed literature and technical briefs. I frequently represent my organization as a technical specialist at global and local meetings, conferences, and technical working groups including the Youth Health and Rights Coalition and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.
My passion for working in family planning developed when I took an internship at a local girls’ empowerment program in Kenya in 2009. During my time there, I met some of the most amazing women I have ever worked with—married adolescents building a tailoring business and young mothers teaching their peers about the benefits of contraception. There, I realized the critical, life-changing importance of providing young people with access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
The biggest challenges faced when working with adolescents and youth, and particularly with girls, are the social and gender norms that impede access to contraceptive information and services. Early marriage and gender based violence are two egregious examples; and are major contributors to adolescent pregnancy. Transforming such norms requires community and male engagement, commitment from key stakeholders, and programmatic efforts that empower adolescents and youth.
I hope to change the lives of adolescent girls’ and young women by reducing the policy and social barriers that impede their access to contraceptive information and services, and by empowering them to be change agents in their countries and communities.