Every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth. Early and unintended pregnancy (EUP) impacts an adolescent or young woman's health and education, limits her future opportunities, and often ostracizes her from her family and local community. Factors including social norms, socioeconomic status, limited access to sexual health education and services, and gender-based violence lead to adolescent, teen, and other types of early and unintended pregnancy.
Let’s Talk! is a 21-country campaign to reduce early and unintended pregnancy across Eastern and Southern Africa. The campaign uses a multimedia design to raise awareness about the effects of early and unintended pregnancy, and to normalize conversations around sexual health education and reproductive rights.
Our major campaign objectives include:
- Increasing access to sexual health education and sexual reproductive health (SRH) services for all
- Shifting social norms and practices that lead to early and unintended pregnancy
- Promoting open dialogue between parents/caregivers and youth
- Changing attitudes and behavior around contraception, pregnancy, and gender roles
- Reducing stigma and discrimination in schools and communities
- Garnering support for policies to prevent EUP and ending pregnancy-based discrimination in schools
All campaign materials are available for free on the Let’s Talk! Website for any individual or organization to use to mobilize their community and learn more about how to prevent EUP, reduce stigma and increase access to sexual health education.
Creating a distinctive brand and understanding each audience group was essential to the strategy for Let’s Talk! We built our messaging around a key issue that came up in our research—young people were unable to talk to their parents about sex and didn’t knowing where else to turn for information.
Through positive stories of 10 community Champions, the Let’s Talk! Campaign invites the people of Eastern and Southern Africa to engage in conversations about the causes and consequences of early and unintended pregnancy, and most of all, about the needed solutions. These real stories were an essential part of our campaign, making the issue personal and helping to advocate for increased access to sexual reproductive health services (including contraception) for all adolescents and young people, without judgment or discrimination.
The campaign is evidence-driven and takes into account both the barriers and motivating factors around EUP in the region. At its core, Let’s Talk! is a grassroots approach to youth empowerment via family planning advocacy leveraging innovative, engaging, and scalable media products.
Our strategy was informed by research, on-the-ground experiences, and an audience and media landscape analysis in order to create a key message framework that informed and defined regionally appropriate key messages for each audience in our focus and supporting countries. To ensure the campaign’s effectiveness with our target audience, we pretested our messaging for appeal, cultural appropriateness, and its overall reception with focus groups in five campaign focus countries. This framework included:
- Messages focus on benefits of adopting positive behaviors at the individual, family, and societal levels.
- Desired behaviors are role modeled while highlighting the benefits of preventing EUP.
- Messages centered around increasing agency (1) among girls and boys to resist peer pressure to have sex at an early age and resist transactional, intergenerational and forced sex, and (2) among families, communities and male peers to question stereotypical expectations of gender roles, and support girls’ decision-making power.
- Messages encourage parents to talk to their children about relationships and sex in order to assist them in healthy decision-making, support their daughters to complete school, and access reproductive health services and information.
- Messages aimed at policymakers highlight social justice through education and seek to trigger specific actions, for example, creating/revising policies and enforcing legislation against child marriage, for access to information, and for comprehensive sexual education.
- All campaign materials include a call to action which is a slogan/tagline telling the audience what specifically they can do to overcome barriers to change and adopt behaviors that reduce the negative social norms whole supporting positive ones. The messages show audience members that they possess the capability to perform the desired action(s).
When the pandemic began and lockdowns halted access to sexual health education in school and other public forums, we shifted “Let’s Talk” campaign to “Let’s Talk at Home,” increasing our social media reach, and adding webinars and a radio drama on the issue. But the core strategy remained the same.
The campaign was enormously successful, as evidenced by:
- 70,000 website page views, along with over 720 downloads of campaign materials.
- Offical launch in 10 coutries and over 10,000 social media followers.
- A total geographic reach of 21 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), with a total regional population of 613 million people.
Other notable achievements included:
Video for Let's Talk - Ending Unintended Pregnancy
- Bolstered Sexual Health Education in Schools: Historically, sexual health education, especially in schools, has faced resistance in many ESA countries. Less resistance is now being met.
- Contextualized the Economic Impact of EUP: The campaign provided important insights about the negative implications of EUP, and positive issues for getting it under control for Eastern and Southern Africa.
- Changed Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior around EUP: Though EUP is a known issue, Let’s Talk! helped to concretize the issue by putting figures and data on the problem in the region. This drew attention of policy makers and politicians.
- Fostered Collaboration Among Policy Makers: The campaign fostered collaboration of government ministries and departments and country implementing partners from diverse sectors including but not limited to Health, Education and Human Rights toward ending EUP.
- Raised Awareness and Sparked Conversations: Regional and national launch activities sparked discussion on EUP through participation by influential policy makers and community leaders.
- Changed Reporting on EUP: Our training of journalists in July 2019 helped influence positive reporting on EUP. Previously, many media channels reported on EUP with a biased towards victim-blaming, stigma and discrimination. We have helped to reverse this trend.