As part of our approach to comprehensive sexuality education, Projet Jeune Leader's curricula includes information on how to access youth-friendly health services. This, along with medical referrals and vouchers, enables students to confidently seek care when needed. Linking students with sexual and reproductive health care is an essential part of our multi-component programming.
As such, we have developed, piloted, and implemented a new workshop for our partner health care providers. The goal of this participatory workshop is to strengthen providers' communication skills and ability to counsel adolescent clients, and ensure their services are youth-friendly.
The training spans five and a half hours, covering the following topics:
Understanding adolescents and their needs
Good listening skills
Encouraging and supporting adolescent clients
Communicating clearly with clients (use of paraphrasing, clarifying questions, and open-ended questions)
Respecting the client and confidentiality
The value of counseling
The workshop is based on games and role-playing, which allows the participants to actively practice the targeted communication skills with young people.
Projet Jeune Leader's Urban and Rural Coordinators, both experienced adult trainers with strong leadership and communication skills, offered the workshop for the first time on January 30th for our partner health care providers in the village of Mahasoabe. This is Projet Jeune Leader's newest rural site, where we started working in October 2017.
PJL's trainers noted that the health care providers' communication skills improved immensely throughout the day, and, importantly, saw that the training made the providers see more value in counseling.
One participant was a nurse and nun who runs a private health clinic in the village. She admitted at the beginning of the training that she had limited experience counseling adolescents on sexual-reproductive health topics. The other health providers helped the nurse-nun see the value in strong communication and counseling skills.
As the head of the Mahasoabe health center explained,
"I had an adolescent client who came to inform me that she was pregnant and that her parents knew nothing about her pregnancy. When I examined her, I was very surprised to see that she was already 9 months pregnant; I was in a very difficult situation, I was obliged to tell her mom first. I explained the situation and asked the mom to be calm and accept reality.... but what was very difficult for me was to convince the daughter's father. I gave him time to call himself, and then I talked to him again. What I notice is that when it is us, health care providers, who talk to our clients there is positive impact, so in difficult moments like that one, it is our duty to communicate with parents' of adolescents."
The training will be offered in PJL's other rural sites in the upcoming months.