Type to search

Project News Reading Time: 7 minutes

Asia Regional Cohort 3: Meaningful Youth Engagement (MYE) In Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH)

In July 2023, as part of the Asia region Learning Circles cohort 3, twenty-two professionals working in various capacities in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) came together to learn, share knowledge, and connect. The goal was to gain insights into ‘what works and what doesn’t’ in meaningfully engaging youth in SRH programs.

“The most wonderful thing was the diversity of the participants… from many countries and many organizations. It was a great platform to learn from others and helped put a lot of things in perspective”

– Participant, Asia LC Cohort

The Knowledge SUCCESS Learning Circles offer global health professionals an interactive peer  learning platform for discussing and sharing effective program implementation approaches. This innovative online series is designed to address the challenges of remote work and lack of in-person interactions. Through small group-based sessions, program managers and technical advisors collaborate in supportive discussions to uncover practical insights and solutions for FP/RH program improvement. 

Learning Circles enable immersive, interactive and participatory peer-to-peer learning through four structured live sessions on Zoom, along with off-session virtual engagement through WhatsApp including weekly reflection exercises and insights gleaned from curated resources available on collaborative spaces such as FP Insight. The cohort was facilitated by Knowledge SUCCESS in collaboration with the Center for Communication and Change – India.


Twenty-two participants were actively engaged in the cohort representing 10 countries including India, Japan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Laos, and Bangladesh. 60% self-identified as women, 33% as men and 7% preferred not to disclose their gender. Participants also ranged in age – with 33% under the age of 29 – and professional experience spanning  from 2 to 25 years. 

Participants spent time sharing their primary area of focus while introducing themselves to each other during Session 1. Some of which include: 

  • Enhancing youth participation and engagement in addressing youth-related issues
  • Ensuring equitable access to quality adolescent and youth friendly services
  • Implementing peer group education initiatives
  • Conducting training of youth advocates and champions
  • Exploring the interlinkages between mental health and SRH

To elucidate the concept of meaningful youth engagement (MYE), the participants were introduced to the Flower of Participation framework conceived by CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality. This metaphorical representation, akin to the blooming of a flower, delineated the distinction between meaningful (e.g., informed, given decision-making role, integration of voice) and non-meaningful (e.g., tokenism and manipulation) forms of youth participation.

“……Young people should not only have a seat at the table but a say at the table.” “…Youth leaders 5 years back are still representing the same platform….there should be a guideline for youth leaders to be replaced after three years to allow new leaders to emerge….” 

– Participants, Asia LC Cohort

What works:

During the second LC session, participants delved into the knowledge management techniques of Appreciative Inquiry and 1-4-ALL. This prompted them to reflect upon and share successful practices from their past or ongoing experiences that have significantly contributed to MYE in SRH projects and programs.

Through individual introspection, collaborative group exercises, and plenary discussions, a set of recurring themes emerged regarding what works:  

  • Involving youth in program design and leadership, giving them a voice;
  • Harnessing digital technology such as mobile apps, and augmented reality for tracking, counseling, and access to information;
  • Investing in youth potential and innovation for sustaining and growth;
  • Addressing mental and emotional well-being by including youth counselling, psychosocial support alongside physical health efforts;
  • Use evidence-based approaches such as collecting data, tapping into local knowledge and resources, analyzing access to SRH services, and shaping strategies accordingly;
  • Fostering trust through non-judgmental, private spaces that enable open dialogue to share experiences and concerns;
  • Prioritizing youth engagement and perspectives aligned with real needs of adolescents and youth such as addressing genuine concerns and needs in FP and SRH;
  • Leveraging community networks for engagement;
  • Transparent processes and a consortium approach

These common themes collectively illustrate a holistic approach to engaging adolescents and youth in AYSRH programs, emphasizing their active involvement, empowerment, skill development, and leveraging  innovative technologies, aligning strategies with actual needs and collaborative partnerships, implementing transparent and innovative approaches to effectively address adolescent and youth SRH concerns.

Challenges/What Could Be Improved:

In Session 3, as a means to tackle challenges and setbacks in achieving MYE and AYSRH, the Troika Consulting peer-to-peer knowledge management approach was adopted. Participants were organized into groups of three or four, and using Google Jamboards participants took turns in describing a current challenge within their respective projects and programs. They then sought immediate advice and insights from their fellow group members to address these challenges. Some of the challenges and potential solutions are outlined below:

Stigma, religious and cultural taboos about ‘sexual’ reproductive health posing difficulty in having open conversation

  • Sensitize the community to the topic by engaging in puberty discussions with young girls and their parents, involving community leaders, and addressing the subject in a subtle manner.
  • Advocacy and engagement with religious and youth leaders to showcase the importance of SRH education for young people and demonstrate the keen interest of young people in learning about SRH.
  • Extend advocacy efforts to include gatekeepers such as policy makers, parents, and other influential figures who can influence community opinions. 
  • Integrate SRH discussions with other programs, like healthcare services and financial initiatives.

Creating adolescent friendly health services and lack of awareness of such services

  • Engagement through expert-led community meetings with AYSRH experts and parents and their adolescent children as participants.
  • Conduct a brief assessment to identify the reasons behind teenagers’ hesitance or inability to access health services.
  • Engage community leaders to play a pivotal role in raising awareness.
  • Develop targeted communication campaigns aimed specifically at adolescents and young people.
  • Leverage senior colleague support through valuable endorsement and influence thereby enhancing the visibility and acceptance of the services.

Predominantly urban-focused availability of AYSRH services and the difficulty in reaching rural young people.

  • Raise awareness within rural communities through informed community engagement.
  • Facilitate access by offering transportation services, ensuring pick-up and drop-off for young people from rural areas. 
  • Train and empower community ambassadors from rural areas to disseminate information about AYSRH services within their communities. 
  • Introduce a chatbot platform based on WhatsApp, designed to function efficiently even with low internet bandwidth.

Lack of inclusive participation in the development of youth policies particularly for marginalized communities such as LGBTQIA+.

  • Creating safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ Inclusion through dedicated groups or forums that prioritize confidentiality and provide a platform for individuals to openly express their identities and concerns.
  • Utilize the power of social media to raise awareness and garner support for LGBTQI+  inclusion in youth policies.

Integrating SRH into education curriculum for adolescents.

  • Collaborate closely with the Ministry of Education to facilitate the adoption of an SRH curriculum within schools.
  • Seek assistance and consultation from reputed NGOs, partners, and organizations experienced in SRH education. 
  • Collaborate with external organizations that can support the government’s efforts in adopting the SRH curriculum.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of SRH content within the regular curriculum for adolescents aged 15-18.

Lack of alignment in prioritization of youth programs by government and non-government organizations.

  • Foster a visionary approach that encompasses the inclusion of young people in all aspects and engages with Ministries. Advocate for their active participation to ensure that youth perspectives are integrated into decision-making processes.
  • Collaborate with influential youth organizations to collectively advocate to the government for the prioritization of youth programs. 
  • Work closely with grassroots youth communities to establish emergency communication channels to facilitate rapid dissemination of information and responses during critical times.
  • Initiate work with small groups within specific targeted areas for tailored interventions.
  • Gather comprehensive research-based data to enhance the impact of advocacy efforts and decision-making processes.
  • Cultivate personal relationships with government colleagues.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of AYSRH in the agendas of all relevant parties and stakeholders.

Lack of male youth participation and their reluctance to invest time.

  • Establish separate discussion groups for boys and girls within schools to foster open conversations about general health topics, including Family Planning. 
  • Incentivize activities that can serve as a motivating factor to engage youth in discussions related to health and FP.
  • Incorporate FP education within leadership programs, positioning it as an essential component of holistic leadership development.
  • Introduce HIV screening opportunities to draw male youth into health-related discussions.
  • Organize imaginative sessions where male youth can envision their future roles as fathers and consider the importance of FP.
  • Promote FP awareness by writing personal letters to young fathers, addressing the significance of being informed about FP and reproductive health.
  • Utilize ANC and Postnatal Care (PNC) platforms as opportunities for FP counseling among couples.

Sustain peer group activities over an extended period of time.

  • Introduce incentives, such as monetary rewards, to encourage sustained participation in peer group activities. 
  • Offer participants certificates upon completing peer group activities to encourage their continued involvement.
  • Acknowledgment and recognition from relevant Ministries for participants’ contributions to peer group activities to instill pride and purpose.
  • Provide avenues to acquire new skills to keep participants engaged and invested over an extended timeframe.

“… the group formations [Troika Consulting] were awesome. It helped  us to discuss the issues in depth with all group members. Kudos to the team for the group formation ideas.” “.. also allowed us to learn from other colleagues about their issues…”

Participants, Asia LC Cohort

Taking Stock/Action:

The final session focused on the practical application of lessons gleaned from earlier discussions where participants formulated precise and pertinent commitment statements within their sphere of influence, centered around MYE and AYSRH. These statements were informed by the strategies and approaches discussed among peers throughout the LC sessions and serve as actionable and practical steps that participants are determined to undertake to address their individual challenges related to ensuring MYE in AYSRH programs.

Commitment statements are an evidence-based behavioral science method that help one to stay on track. Some of the commitments made were:

  • I commit to working with two youth organizations associated with adolescents from the LGBTQIA+ community by December 2023 leading to meaningful engagements focused on the sexual and reproductive health, wellness, and online safety needs of adolescents and youth.
  • By August 2023, I commit to initiating a peer support mechanism among the private service providers during the monthly cluster meeting.
  • By December 2023, I will discuss the FP need for unmarried couples and provide easy access to  FP services for youth with disabilities.
  • By Feb 2024, I commit to sharing the knowledge of meaningful youth participation (MYP) in FP/SRH with staff members through the monthly learning session.
  • By Nov 2023, I commit to draft the action plan of MYP with a new revision of the terms of reference TOR for youth groups namely the “United Nation Advisory Panel” to leverage and push forward the agenda of SRH/comprehensive sexuality education.

“Very engaging, interactive sessions and group discussions. Paving the platform to learn from colleagues.” “I got introduced to helpful frameworks and got the chance to discuss what works and what does not with people who are equally passionate and skilled in AYSRH.”



The Learning Circles Asia Cohort showed that preparation, skilled facilitation, and live engagement with cohort members over integrated platforms underpinned by robust back-end tech support can lead to transformative learning. The Learning Circlesinitiative empowered AYSRH professionals across Asia by enhancing their understanding of MYE in AYSRH, connected them with peers confronting similar challenges and helped devise innovative strategies to enhance SRH program implementation. The newfound understanding of various knowledge management tools and techniques equips them to propagate creative knowledge exchange and effective practices within their respective organizations to promote MYE in AYSRH programs.

Sanjeeta Agnihotri


Sanjeeta Agnihotri is the Director at the Center for Communication and Change-India. With over a decade long experience in leading social and behavior change communication and public health research, she has worked with a wide range of development partners, UN agencies, government departments and academicians on an array of social development and public health issues like – tobacco control, ECCD, non-communicable diseases, mental health, adolescent health, reproductive health and family planning, disaster risk reduction, to name a few. She has led several capacity strengthening workshops on SBC concepts like the P-Process, Human Centered Design and Behavioral Economics and is part of the South Asia Regional SBCC Secretariat and India SBCC Alliance. She facilitates the Leadership in Strategic Communication Workshop for the South Asia region since 2014.

Sonali Jana


Sonali Jana has 20+ years of experience in development projects and programs largely focused on driving social and behaviour change (SBC) within diverse sectors including public health, adolescent and youth empowerment, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), education, early childhood development, and nutrition. She has worked with UNICEF, CARE, Evidence Action, Center for Communication and Change-India (CCC-I), and Johns Hopkins CCP among others, contributing to program management, research, resource and social mobilization, knowledge management, capacity strengthening, SBC communication, and partner management. Her work extends across India and the Asia region. She has a Master’s degree in Psychology with a specialization in Clinical and Counselling Interventions. Presently she is Deputy Director in CCC-I, New Delhi, India.

Pranab Rajbhandari

Country Manager, Breakthrough ACTION Nepal, and and Regional Knowledge Management Advisor with Knowledge SUCCESS, Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs

Pranab Rajbhandari is the Country Manager/Sr. Social Behavior Change (SBC) Advisor for Breakthrough ACTION project in Nepal. He is also the Regional Knowledge Management Advisor-Asia for Knowledge SUCCESS. He is a Social Behavior Change (SBC) practitioner with more than two decades of public health work experience. He has grounded field experience starting as a program officer and has in the past decade led projects and country teams. He has also consulted independently nationally and internationally for USAID, UN, GIZ projects. He holds a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Mahidol University, Bangkok, a Master’s (MA) in Sociology from Michigan State University, Michigan and is an Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus.