It was a bit of serendipity when the young woman’s phone started buzzing. Normally at a conference, a phone call or a text message would be an embarrassing disruption, but not this time. This interruption came as twenty young women gathered to share their personal stories. Some had children, some were sex workers, others had dropped out of school. These women were representatives of the many young women around Zomba and Machinga Districts in Malawi who face challenges in accessing quality reproductive health services, providing real faces to the broader issue at hand.
This text message was received at the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Ambassador Workshop in Blantyre, Malawi – where I represented VillageReach as one of the 56 winners chosen to find new, innovative ways to reduce the impact of HIV on women and girls. This workshop brought together Innovation Challenge winners from around Malawi, as well as this group of young women. We were all there to learn and share, creating new connections while underscoring the importance and urgency of this work.
The young woman quietly raised her hand, pausing the ongoing discussion to share the contents on her phone. The text she received was from Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF) – Health Center by Phone, the perfect example of the power of this health hotline. This small moment demonstrated the ability of CCPF to reach youth – and how that information can be shared further through the social circles of young people. Leveraging the power of this hotline is one piece of VillageReach’s new CCPF for Adolescents.
VillageReach, with new partner Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest and Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), is working to improve adolescent girls and young women’s access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information, services and commodities. Over the next two years, we are going to provide additional training and reference materials to CCPF hotline workers, as well as target new “tips & reminders” SMS messages to adolescents. We are also going to work with pharmacy assistant graduates and health center staff to strengthen youth-friendly services at the last mile. All of this is aimed at helping girls access the reproductive health services they need – addressing one of the major reasons girls leave school early.
The DREAMS Innovation Challenge Ambassador Workshop was my first DREAMS event. Meeting all of the other partners in person, interacting with them, sharing implementation plans, and exchanging contacts made it all feel so real for me. It was incredibly exciting to hear about the new ideas and innovations that are all beginning around Malawi, ready to make an impact in the lives of young women and girls. Seeing CCPF in action added to my excitement. A text message reaching a young woman and her eagerness to share it amongst the other young women was proof that this idea has potential for success: a perfect high note for us to begin.