IYD 2021: Celebrating Young Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Leaders

Aug 23, 2021

This year, the HCDExchange set out to honour International Youth Day all month long instead of just August 12 which is marked as International Youth Day. We did this by sharing the first draft of the co-created statement on Meaningful Youth Engagement at the intersection of HCD and ASRH with the community and hosted three design workshops focused on a) how to create awareness for ASRH information, interventions & innovations (co-hosted with YUX Senegal); b) how to increase access to ASRH solutions (co-hosted with Tinkerlabs) c) how to  improve advocacy for the AYSRHR agenda (co-hosted with PSI Ethiopia / A360).

We are closing out the month by celebrating seven young change makers who are making huge impacts in the sexual reproductive health of adolescents in their community.

HCDExchangers, meet the young leaders …

Yemhretkal Teshale is a first-year master’s student at the Addis Ababa University School of Commerce (AAUSC) and graduated from the same institution with a BA degree in Marketing Management. Born in Addis Ababa, Yemhretkal grew up with a strong passion for helping others and giving back to her community. Yemhretkal has worked with PSI Ethiopia as a young designer on the implementation of ASRH programmes in rural areas in Ethiopia. She co-designed and implemented different human-centered solutions for framing family planning as the path to achieving your aspirations for adolescent girls between the ages of 15-19. In her most recent project, she was engaged in economically empowering and finding different opportunities for adolescent girls.
Yemhretkal has also been engaged in advocacy platforms where she showcases the power of youth involvement for change. In addition to that she helps out at the Selamta Family Project where she educates orphaned and vulnerable children. She plays a key role in mentoring, empowering girls to achieve their dreams and leads a girl-centered group with a partner organization. She is a strong believer of youth power to drive needed change in the community and creating equal chances for all.
Ayush Kumar is a 23-year-old youth advocate from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, India. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and has been working in the menstrual hygiene space for the last two years.
While helping out in his father’s shop in 2019, he observed that women and teenagers who came to buy sanitary pads always asked that the pads be wrapped in paper. He was disturbed to see that even in today's progressive society, women and girls have to cover sanitary pads in newspapers.
He therefore decided to start Mission Babunia, a campaign to educate and inform students about menstruation. Babunia is the Bhojpuri word for girl child. Today, Mission Babunia has educated nearly 10,000 women and girls about menstruation. Additionally, more than 300 women and girls form low-income areas are given free sanitary pads on the 28th of every month. Pad banks have also been installed in five schools in Jharkhand and in instances such as last year’s lockdown where girls have to walk
about 10km to buy sanitary pads, Mission Babunia delivers pads to the girls. Ayush has learned to talk to thousands of girls about menstruation and has understood their situation. He also speaks with boys about menstruation often.
Ayush also runs Voice of Change, an organisation that provides free primary education to children from slums.
Martha Kombe is currently the Program Officer of Straight Talk Foundation Kenya, where she technically supports and coordinates the Foundation's projects. She also helps with the foundation's administrative duties.
She loves animals and one that best describes her is a cat: friendly, curious, and active.
She is the former president of the Youth Advisory Council Nairobi Metropolitan Services, Health department, (2018-2021) and was responsible for coordinating the adolescents and young people program within 10 health sub counties.

The 26-year-old reproductive health advocate is passionate about community work and is involved in employing preventive health and behavior change in her community. She focuses on adolescents and young people. Martha has received awards for being instrumental in family planning services that involve the young people in her sub county, Nairobi.
She has been recognized by the Nairobi Health Department as a champion for addressing family planning and contraception supply and demand as well as for her advocacy within urban areas through The Change Initiative, courtesy of Jhpiego.
Martha is a mental health champion and a Psychotherapist practitioner, giving her services to the community in Kamukunji sub County. She holds a diploma in Community Development.
Yohannes Seyoum. is a second year mechanical engineering student at the Addis Ababa Science and Technology University(AASTU). Yohannes grew up in the rural part of Ethiopia and attributes his love for plants to his upbringing.

Yohannes has a passion and drive for all things inclusion and equality. He has participated and led various youth clubs, initiatives and programs focusing on leadership, youth engagement and gender.

Yohannes works as a Youth Innovation Champion with PSI Ethiopia. In this role, he works with married girls aged 15 – 19, employing human centered design to contribute to programs that enable adolescent girls to lead healthy lives in which they have the agency, knowledge and decision making power.

In addition to program design, Yohannes has also participated in an advocacy capacity, engaging in numerous campaigns, events and advocacy sessions particularly for the Roadmap for Integrating Smart Start in Ethiopia (RISE). He is currently part of the sub-committee that is working to launch a new global youth engagement strategy for PSI. As part of the committee made up of youth representatives from four A360 countries, Yohannes represents PSI Ethiopia and serves as Secretary of the Committee.

Outside of PSI, he is also an active member of the student’s parliament at his university. In this capacity he voices the concerns and questions of the students whom he represents. He also serves as a role model to the school community and beyond by developing and participating in different volunteering opportunities on and off campus. Yohannes believes that everyone can contribute to bring about the change they desire and intends to leave a big footprint by serving and leading his community.
Mausam Kumari is a 19-year-old Youth Champion from Hardiya village in the Nawada
district in Bihar, India. About four years ago, she taught a group of adolescent girls about
sanitary pads and how they could replace the cloth they otherwise had discomfort using with sanitary pads. Sanitary pads cost Rs 30 a pack and the girls decided to save Rs 1 a day to
buy these packs in bulk at the end of the month. A bulk purchase started costing
them Rs 2-3 lesser per pack and they used the remaining amount to purchase pads
to distribute to other girls and menstruating women in their village. Thus, the Pad
Bank was established and Mausam continues to lead it even through the lockdown.

Besides establishing the Pad Bank, Mausam has been instrumental in advocating
for an adolescent health corner at the nearest government hospital to create a safe private
space for adolescents’ sexual reproductive health needs. Mausam and her group of young leaders have stopped child marriages, spread awareness about contraceptives and are
challenging age old taboos in their village.
Ruth Kiniaru is a 23-year-old Law Student working with the (Bar Hostess Empowerment Programme (BHESP) to ease structural barriers that hinder sex workers from accessing sexual reproductive health services. Ruth is in charge of setting up and running the organization’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.

The goal of the grassroot ADR system is to ensure that sex workers access justice. It saves time by allowing access to justice in days or weeks compared to the court system which takes years. This encourages more sex workers to report violations. It also puts parties in control of their own cases and not the lawyers, therefore gives them an opportunity to tell their side of a story and have a say in the final decision. Sex workers have reported satisfaction because the process is non-biased, and stigma free as well. Additionally, the ADR system preserves goodwill, and maintains relationships with clients and police after a matter has been resolved.
Hélène Peace Frida is a young activist and champion for sexual reproductive health and family planning from Benin. She is the former national president of Mouvement d'Action des Jeunes (MAJ), former vice president of Youth Ambassadors for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Family Planning, Benin, and is currently an assistant in the Youth and Gender Program at the Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille (ABPF), a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
Hélène is also the Francophone West Africa Facilitator for the Ouagadougou Partnership’s Youth Think Tank. She has coordinated youth and women's projects for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights and for youth access to family planning.

Hélène is committed to strengthening female leadership, integrating comprehensive sexuality education into the school curriculum, capacity building for young people, advocacy and resource mobilization. She is also a strong advocate for the integral development of adolescents and young people and the empowerment of the girl child. She is convinced that sustainable development is impossible without these two prerequisites.

Hélène has a bachelor’s degree in Marketing Communication from the International Institute of Management in Benin and is currently pursuing her master’s degree.