Our Year in Review: 2019 Top Ten
One word describes our 2019: innovative. It may be an over- and mis-used buzzword, but we believe it captures Projet Jeune Leader’s impact and growth over the past year. In 2019, we:
achieved a groundbreaking expansion of our program,
realized new ways of collaborating with government partners,
pioneered a new and creative approach to hearing from to our students,
learned and self-evaluated to deliver even higher-quality comprehensive sexuality education,
and so much more!
Read on for our Top 10 highlights from the 2018-2019 school year.
# 10: In the lead for Menstrual Hygiene Day in Madagascar
Projet Jeune Leader’s excitement about International Menstrual Hygiene Day was at an all-time high in 2019: for the first time ever, the Ministry of Energy, Water, and Hydrocarbons asked us to help lead the national celebration. Our dynamic team traveled to the small coastal town of Manakara where, among other activities, we set up our famous nail-painting educational booth – an entry point for community conversation and awareness-building on menstrual health and hygiene.
An astounding 4,700 people (including 1,476 men) directly participated in our activities during the three-day event. The Minister was so impressed by our expertise and professionalism that we have already been requested to design the agenda of next year’s event!
#9: What’s "comprehensive" in comprehensive sexuality education?
Very little research exists on the effectiveness of comprehensive sexuality education in the Global South. The reason? The sheer lack of sexuality education programs in these settings that meet the international standards of comprehensiveness. This gap inspired us to invest in collecting evidence on Projet Jeune Leader’s impact in Madagascar – a program that is truly comprehensive by UNESCO’s standards. We hope findings from our research can encourage more robust support and implementation of comprehensive sexuality education everywhere.
In 2019, we also revisited our Theory of Change and Theory of Action, began a stakeholder analysis to inform our long-term strategy for sustainability, and evaluated our program against recent literature and research gaps in comprehensive sexuality education.
#8: Improving adolescent girls’ access to menstrual hygiene resources in rural areas
Our Educators work tirelessly to help middle school students understand and achieve their right to health and education – including girls’ rights to menstrual health and hygiene resources and support. In addition to our classroom programming, we were able to provide re-usable sanitary pad kits to 1,510 adolescent girls in our rural partner schools with new funding from the Australia High Commission Direct Aid Program.
"Talking about menstruation in these rural areas is still somewhat taboo and difficult, so no one does it. Therefore we thank you for this gift; we wouldn't overcome this difficulty otherwise, and really encourage parents and their children to talk about menstruation. And you don't just stop at the tools, but you really provide us the complete knowledge we need." – School Monitor, Talata Ampano Middle School
#7: International Conference on Family Planning
We took our biggest step yet into the international spotlight when Projet Jeune Leader headed to Rwanda for the 2019 International Conference on Family Planning. Our Pedagogy Coordinator, Hanitra, was selected as one of the conference’s Youth Delegates out of a pool of 550 applicants – a momentous professional and personal achievement.
“I was just so happy that I almost couldn’t believe it,” Hanitra – who had never left Madagascar before – recounted. “When the plane took off, I felt so grateful and proud of everything I had accomplished.” During the youth pre-conference, Hanitra also made a big splash in front of the nearly 800 participants as one of six finalists in AmplifyChange’s first-ever pitch contest.
Our Program Director, Laura, also won full-funding as a “Young Researcher” to present on Projet Jeune Leader’s evidence base during a panel-poster presentation.
#6: Growing ‘Resilient Roots’ Through Enhanced Accountability
As a participant in the CIVICUS Resilient Roots initiative, we received resources, training, and ideas to strengthen dialogue and trust with the groups we serve – what CIVICUS calls primary constituent accountability. For us, that meant taking a close and hard look at how we engage, interact with, and listen to students, parents, and school administrators.
We developed, tested, and integrated different systems to collect and respond to our constituents’ feedback. This required some ingenuity to adapt to the local contexts of where we work in Madagascar: our approaches took into account poor access to information and communication technologies, strong courtesy bias, low literacy, and very rural and distributed constituents.
As a result of the initiative, we have institutionalized several participatory and culturally-appropriate feedback mechanisms which have not only helped to improve our organization’s performance, but also our accountability.
#5: Boys are part of the solution: The Real Men Program
"Before, I didn't realize that touching a girl's privates without her consent is actually an act of violence." – Participant of our 2018-2019 boys’ program
Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, 154 male middle school students critically examined gender equity and intimate-partner violence through after-school clubs led by their school’s male Projet Jeune Leader Educator. We designed this 20-session extracurricular program, called NY TENA LEHILAHY (The “Real Men” Program), to explicitly address inequitable gender norms among young adolescent boys. The program fills a critical gap in programming for this demographic in Madagascar, as this group is commonly missed by traditional interventions that only target girls or older adolescents.
Using the internationally-recognized Gender Equitable Men (GEM) scale, we found that post-program, more boys were likely to score high in their gender-equitable attitudes as compared to before the program. In fact, no boys scored low in their attitudes on gender equity after they participated in the program, a true testament to how transformative an intensive curriculum led by professional educators can be.
#4: Fostering Sharing and Building Community: Partner School Symposium
For the first time, in 2019 we brought together leaders from all of our partner schools for a participatory and interactive Symposium. It was a time to celebrate and reflect on our partnerships. It was also an opportunity for partner school directors and teachers to more deeply understand Projet Jeune Leader’s approach, values, and culture. One outcome of the Symposium was a new set of feedback mechanisms co-created with participants to enhance responsive and regular communication with partner school leaders.
During the ensuing school year, we realized the depth of impact the Symposium had on our organization’s legitimacy and relationships with school leaders. Our staff observed that school directors were much more engaged in advocating for our program to teachers and parents than in past years. Many directors were still sharing their appreciation for the Symposium months later.
We are excited to turn this into an annual tradition – our 2nd annual partner school Symposium is set for February 2020!
#3: Our accountability publishing house
Who knew we would enter the publishing business? We launched a new initiative this year with our “EKO” magazines: monthly fun, colorful magazines that are improving transparency, trust, and a sense of community between Projet Jeune Leader and our partner schools’ students, parents, and teachers.
Each EKO shares highlights of PJL’s activities and approach through pictures, interviews, stories, news blurbs, and cartoons. Our favorite sections are those featuring students’ opinions and feedback on Projet Jeune Leader. Parents, teachers, school directors, and even higher-level Ministry of Education officials also took part in the magazines’ testimonial sections, turning them into advocacy tools to show how deeply our programming resonates with local communities.
The last section of each magazine provides space for readers to write questions, comments, or concerns to our team. In the subsequent issue, we then respond to these comments, providing transparency into whether, how, and why we used their feedback. Over the course of just seven months, we received 776 comments. Hundreds of them were stories of change and expressions of support. We were genuinely amazed at how effective the magazines were in building awareness of our work and creating meaningful dialogue with the communities we serve.
"It is wonderful to read this magazine because I have witnessed my child’s development since they became involved with Projet Jeune Leader. They have become motivated to wake up early and are always happy when doing things at home. My wish is that my child will become a leader like those Jeune Leader [educators] here at Mahatsinjony." – A comment written in to EKO from the parent of a student at Mahatsinjony middle school
#2: Going where we’re needed most
We increased our reach by 33% in the 2018-2019 school year by adding an additional four partner schools! As we scale Projet Jeune Leader locally and in phases, we’ve reinvigorated our effort to reach adolescents in rural areas. Now, nearly 70% of our partner schools are in rural and semirural communities.
Not only is the demand for Projet Jeune Leader’s programming higher in rural areas, but it is also where the need is most salient. New data released by UNICEF revealed that across nearly all outcomes we focus on – early pregnancy, child marriage, education, violence, and more – the disparities between rural adolescents and their urban counterparts are huge.
"The collaboration between our school district and Projet Jeune Leader is one of the most unique among all of our partnerships: you offer particular knowledge to young people on their life in general, their “love” life, their life skills… We have other partnerships that specifically offer knowledge related to teaching and pedagogy, but Projet Jeune Leader is completely different. This is something that’s needed, that young people really need." – School Superintendent of the rural Vohibato district, May 2019
#1: First steps to scale
In our boldest move to-date, Projet Jeune Leader expanded to a new region of Madagascar for the 2018-2019 school year, reaching an additional 1,800 adolescents with high-quality comprehensive sexuality education.
We created a decentralized office “hub” in the region of Amoron'i Mania to house one technical staff member and one finance/administration staff member. Together, they oversee five Youth Educators’ work in two public middle schools. Coupled with rigorous program monitoring and a focus on adaptative management methods, this initial phase of expansion greatly improved our team’s capacity and informed our scale-up strategy. With outcome evaluation data on more than 2,000 students from the region, we also have a fresh and invaluable evidence base on our program. Most importantly, the community’s response to Projet Jeune Leader has been outright exceptional, and has set the foundation for our continued expansion in 2020 and beyond.
We continue to be unwavering in our passion and drive: we believe all adolescents in Madagascar should be empowered to make healthy and informed sexual health decisions from puberty into adulthood. The past year’s learnings, experiences, and achievements have positioned 2020 to be our best and most impactful one yet. Thank you all for your continued support and investment in Projet Jeune Leader, and stay in touch!