The RESPECT SDSR des jeunes (Research, Education on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Advocacy for Equality) project, that developed training courses for medical students and health professionals about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Sahel, has come to a close.
Our Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) team, in alliance with long-term partner DERSP of the medical faculty in Mali, successfully concluded the ‘RESPECT- SDSR des jeunes’ project after three years of fruitful collaboration with the medical faculties and NGOs in Burkina Faso and Niger.
Research and education on SRHR and Gender
The project was funded by Nuffic under the Orange knowledge Programme, and it supported the medical faculties in Mali and Burkina Faso and the health sciences faculty of the Abdou Moumouni University, in Niger. Women, girls and young people in the SAHEL face great difficulties due to the lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services, limited contraceptive use, high rates of early marriage and pregnancy, female genital mutilation and unsafe abortions risks.
Consequently, SRHR requires greater attention in higher education curricula. So integrating SRHR into the curricula was needed, as it was narrowly touched upon in the curriculum of the two faculties in Burkina Faso and Niger.
Since the project began in August 2020, the three faculties were guided by KIT and the technical partners CGIC, DONIBLOG and ASDAP in the development of short courses on SRHR and gender. Besides these courses, we also conducted qualitative research and advocacy on SRHR topics, and reinforced the links between the medical faculties and several NGOs to stimulate an exchange in curriculum development, teaching methods, gender equality and programmatic experiences on SRHR and gender in the Sahel.
“I believe that the exchange between faculties and NGOs has been an important part of the project. Courses that connect to the reality are needed, so (future) health professionals are able to understand the multiple difficulties faced in the Sahel around SRHR,” says Lincie Kusters, Senior SRHR Advisor at KIT and the project lead for RESPECT SDSR des jeunes.
“We’ve made a start, but the integration of SRHR as a track in the masters is the next milestone for the faculties in Burkina Faso and Niger; as a critical mass is required, to contribute to preventing and addressing unwanted pregnancies, FGM/C, child marriage, and gender based violence within these health systems. ”
Launching the first course
The three short courses that have been developed aim to improve higher education on SRHR and gender among students in medicine and the health professionals in the region. The first course was launched in Ougagadougou and Niamey in March 2023. In Ouagadougou, 26 women and 25 men studying medicines joined the course and in Niamey the faculty trained 6 women and 22 men.
In both countries, because we partnered with Lafia Matassa in Niger, Agir-SD in Burkina Faso, the faculties offering the courses also had the additional benefit of learning from the practical experiences of NGOs working with young people and engaged on SRHR.
The first training on sexual health in Mali is scheduled for February 2024 and will be in collaboration with ARCAD health Plus and its coalition partners.
A new regional course on gender-based violence in conflict settings
In addition to these courses, with the support of the medical faculties and KIT, the NGOs Doniblog, ASDAP, Agir-SD and Lafia Matassa, also developed a short course specifically for the Sahel region on gender-based violence (GBV) in conflict settings. This training was developed to contribute to the prevention and effective handling of GBV. It’s geared towards organisations and associations that fight GBV and work in the field of SRHR.
The country teams provided the first training in March 2023 for 76 representatives of civil society organisations in the three participating countries. In addition to this, in Niger, Lafia Matassa also included young people in the training on GBV. The 13 girls and 12 boys who were trained can now provide the same training to other youth structures in the country.
Exchange between faculties and NGOs
The exchange resulting from this project between faculties and NGOs allowed them to build upon and improve their teaching methods and their short courses on SRHR. Together we created a thriving base for more access to higher education on SRHR and gender for (future) health professionals.
If you or your organisation would like to sign up for any of these courses in Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger, please reach out to the relevant contact persons below.