The Safeguard Young People (SYP) Programme intends to identify and scale up comprehensive interventions for adolescents and young people in Southern Africa through a multi-sectoral approach that addresses policy, integrated HIV and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, sexuality education for in- and out-of-school youth, as well as youth empowerment. The goal of the programme is to improve the sexual and reproductive health status of young people aged 10 to 24 by the end of 2019. Communication strategies used by the programme include advocacy, peer education, social mobilisation, social media strategies, as well as edutainment.
The primary domains of action are as follows:
Policy - The programme seeks to improve policy, legal, and programming environment of addressing young people’s issue at all levels. SYP collaborates with national and regional stakeholders to review laws and policies that negatively affect young people, and to harmonise legal and policy frameworks across all eight countries. The programme also works closely with traditional and faith-based leaders who have unique authority in many African communities where they provide influential moral and ethical guidance. Some traditional communities have been slow to respond constructively to the realities and vulnerabilities of young people’s SRHR. Traditional culture can be shrouded in shame about sex, and some traditional rites of passage are harmful to young people. SYP seeks to promote the positive aspects of traditional practices while finding community-accepted replacements for harmful, outdated ones. SYP works with traditional leaders and community ‘gatekeepers’ to help them understand their own important roles in strengthening the community systems that support healthy youth development. One achievement in this area has been the development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Model Law on Child Marriage in collaboration with SADC Parliamentary Forum, with the main objective of serving as a yardstick and an advocacy tool for legislators in the SADC Region.
Knowledge - The programme seeks to provide comprehensive sexuality education to increase young peoples skill in protective sexual behaviours, and to also reach young people through innovative approaches. As research has consistently proven that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) can help young people delay sexual activity, reduce their number of sexual partners, and increase protective sexual behaviours, SYP champions CSE becoming part of school curricula in all eight countries. SYP also addresses the wider community with its knowledge-based interventions. SYP conducts mass outreach and community sensitisation campaigns to reach parents, teachers, and others so that communities work together to protect and promote young people’s SRH. Media programming, health clubs, drama clubs, sporting events, and community open days are key avenues for dissemination of behaviour change communication materials, especially for out-of-school youth. The following are some specific activities implemented by the project:
- The SYP music project produced an album, called “We Will” that includes 10 songs on issues related to adolescents sexual reproductive health.
- A manual called ‘iCAN’ for young people living with HIV was developed in collaboration with Safaids Regional Office. In 2016, it is was widely distributed to all SYP countries for utilisation at national level.
- SYP facilitated the design of a mobisite called “TuneMe”, a youth engagement platform that supports young people in accessing relevant adolescent sexual and reproductive health information.
- A CSE manual was also developed to strengthening national capacity to improve and expand comprehensive adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) programmes.
Services - The programme also seeks to massively scale up youth-friendly and integrated SRH and HIV services for young people. Youth-friendly health service (YFHS) delivery is about providing services based on understanding and respecting what young people want and need. It is grounded in the realities of young people’s lives and honours their right to make decisions for themselves. To be ‘youth-friendly,’ service providers must offer accurate, unbiased information and refrain from making judgments about a young person’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviour. SYP’s emphasis is on both static and outreach services, integrated HIV and SRH services including distribution of contraception and condoms, promotion of HIV testing and treatment, and antenatal and post-natal care for young mothers. But ‘youth-friendly’ is also about human interactions; it is about understanding social dynamics and ensuring that young people feel safe and supported. The project produced a pamphlet which explains what YFHS are, and the rights and responsibilities of young people in relation to their health.
Empowerment - The programme seeks to increase leadership among young people - especially girls - in regional development processes. SYP does this by empowering young people with the skills, knowledge, and platforms they require to participate in policy dialogue and influence decision makers on ASRH. SYP uses social media recruitment strategies to multiply the number of young people who are able to transfer knowledge to their peers about SRHR, link their peers with services, and mobilise other young people to advocate for increased investment in youth issues at all levels. Each SYP country employs its own peer facilitation model. Young people are recruited; trained on SRHR issues, facilitation/communication strategies, and technology; and then involved in programme design, implementation, and evaluation. Over 1,000 young people have been trained and supported by SYP to provide peer education, facilitation, and community mobilisation in the southern African districts most in need. Youth advocacy platforms are up and running in most SYP countries, and many young people who began as beneficiaries have since become volunteers or received training to continue working with SYP.
The following are just a few examples of how the programme has used the momentum and popularity of mobile technology and social media to reach large numbers of young people with empowering information and networking opportunities: In South Africa, SYP trained a Youth Advisory Panel to lead social media advocacy through its Facebook page, reaching nearly 5,400 young people. SYP in Botswana runs two Facebook pages, followed by more than 4,700 young people, that routinely dispels myths about sex. In Malawi, SYP supports its implementing partner YONECO to host multiple traditional and social media platforms including a national toll-free helpline and an online counselling chat platform. In Zimbabwe, SYP trained peer educators on mobile technology and social media platforms and sent them back to their rural communities - with new tablets - where they created Facebook Clubs that engage other young people throughout Zimbabwe while exploring SRHR issues. To support young people in their use of social media, SYP development a Social Media pamphlet which is designed to be a guide on how to stay safe while using social media, and explains what to do and what not to do when using social media.
Evidence - The programme seeks to document and disseminate evidence, lessons learned, and best practices nationally and regionally. Operating on a large scale across eight countries enables SYP to ambitiously build an extensive body of knowledge on young people and their needs. This research will tell the stories of southern Africa’s young people while informing evidence-based advocacy and programming. Numerous studies are underway in each SYP country.
For more information, click here to read the SYP Brochure.
Youth, Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS
The project seeks to address the following challenges in the ESA region:
- 430,000 young people are infected with HIV per year (50 per hour)
- HIV knowledge levels among young people are 30%
- Maternal mortality is among the leading causes of death for adolescent girls
- Fewer than 5% of the poorest young people use modern contraception
- Half of the unsafe abortions conducted globally among young women (15-19) occur in Africa
Vision for the future:
“By the end of 2019, SYP expects to have reached 1.6 million young people via social media platforms and 3 million young people with comprehensive sexuality education. SYP envisions a southern Africa in which governments promote evidence-based laws and policies that enable young people to realize their rights and their potential, and in which youth-friendly health services are readily available. SYP wants girls to stay in school, wants parents to open up dialogue with their children and wants young people to be healthy, protected, and have access to information and opportunity. SYP expects to see a drastic reduction in unintended pregnancy in its target districts and hopes to make a major contribution towards achieving an AIDS-free generation in southern Africa.”
The following are a selection of outcomes so far:
- No pregnancies were recorded between August 2014 and April 2015 in the 18 schools where SYP operates.
- 71% of the total youth population in SYP target districts in Malawi have accessed YFHS since SYP’s inception.
- From 2013 - 2015, over 4.39 million young people and adolescents were reached with at least one SYP intervention.
For more information on activities and progess made within the first 2 years, see the The Safeguard Young People Programme Annual Report 2015 (Phase 1) 
The Safeguard Young People Brochure and the Safeguard Young People Programme Annual Report (Phase 1) on March 2 2017.