Youth 2 Youth (Y2Y) is a youth-led organization in Cameroon that advocates for improved adolescent health awareness. The team is passionate about using technology to solve social problems, and is particularly interested in using human-centered design to create apps that are accessible and relevant to young people and that make a difference in their lives.
The northwest region of Cameroon has been grappling with a crisis for the past six years, significantly affecting the health and well-being of young people. Accessing essential services, especially in these more fragile regions of the country, has become challenging. In response to the youth’s struggles, Y2Y was founded in 2018 by a dedicated team. The organization’s mission is to “empower young people to take control of their sexual and reproductive health.” The severe impact of the crisis has lead to around 80% of the schools and health facilities shutting down.
One of Y2Y’s most innovative projects is developing a mobile app called NANG. NANG is a comprehensive sexuality education app that provides young people with information on various topics, including menstruation, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections. The app is available in English and is designed to be accessible to young people in outlying and rural areas who may not have easy access to other forms of health information.
We asked the team a few questions about Y2Y and the NANG App:
Q1: What inspired the founding team to start this program?
The crisis in these regions put the health of young people in danger, which inspired us to create programs to address their needs. We noticed an increase in unwanted teenage pregnancies, and a clear issue around teenagers and young girls who were lacking information in the area of sexual and reproductive health and family planning. The challenging legal landscape regarding abortion meant that many young people were seeking out unsafe abortion methods. This motivated us to develop the NANG mobile application to provide comprehensive sexuality education, tele-consultation with medical doctors, and geolocalization of health facilities and pharmacies to address these challenges.
Q2: What kind of activities did you kick off with?
Our very first activity as an organization was the distribution of over 3ooo flyers of SRH/FP educational messages in Yaounde at the beginning of 2019 during the National Youth Day celebrations in Cameroon. We followed that up with a range of advocacy activities in Bamenda, a town experiencing high insecurities due to the tensions across the region and the place where one of our founding team members worked in a clinic. We continued with several sensitization campaigns on-the-ground across different communities, a series of radio programs, social media health talks on our organization’s Facebook page, blog publications, print media publications and more. Youth 2 Youth also published its first research paper conducted during stakeholder discussions in 2020 which can be accessed here.
Q3: How has human-centered design helped in the development of the app?
We became interested in the idea of designing products and services that are truly user-centered, when we saw how human-centered design could be used to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Human-centered design has been essential to our work at Y2Y. For example, by involving young people in every stage of the development process of the NANG app, we have been able to design and create a helpful product and service that is truly relevant to the users’ needs. This has helped us to make a real difference in the lives of young people in Cameroon.
Q4: How did you use HCD in the development process of the NANG app?
We used HCD principles throughout the app development process. We involved the target beneficiaries, which were young people, from the outset of the process. We selected 15 youth leaders to work closely with us, gathering their input on how to present the content and features effectively. We also considered their preferences to inform the design elements, user-friendly features, and even the choice of words and language used in the app.
Q5: What are the next steps for NANG?
NANG is still a budding project with so much potential, our immediate focus is to increase its coverage across the entire region, while working on improving its performance and enabling easier accessibility. Within the next five years, we hope for the NANG App to be a go-to reference when it comes to designing programs for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in Cameroon.
We hope that Y2Y will continue to grow and expand its reach. We want to see Y2Y become a leading organization in adolescent health awareness across Cameroon, and we want to see more young people empowered to take control of their sexual and reproductive health.
Our advice to other young people is to start small and to try to focus on one main problem that you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources available to help young people who are interested in using technology to make a difference.