Sexual and reproductive health remains a cultural taboo for adolescents and young people in Bangladesh

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Population Council conducted a qualitative study titled “Adolescent Friendly Health Corners (AFHCs) in Selected Government Health Facilities in Bangladesh, an early qualitative assessment” measuring the performance and effectiveness of the Adolescent Friendly Health Corners (AFHC) for the well-being of unmarried adolescent girls.

To share the study findings with policy makers and key stakeholders, Population Council organized a dissemination program on 26 April 2017 at Spectra Convention Center, Gulshan 1, Dhaka. This study focused on 10 AFHCs supported by UNFPA in 5 districts-Moulvibazar, Thakurgaon, Sirajganj, Patuakhali, and Cox’s Bazar and data were collected from August 2016- October 2016.

In the dissemination program, Dr. Kazi Mustafa Sarwar, Additional Secretary & Director General of Directorate General of Family Planning was present as the Chief Guest. The event was chaired by Dr. Mohammed Sharif, Director (MCH) and Line Director (MCRAH), Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP).

Population Council organized a seminar on adolescent health corner

The Special Guests were Dr. Md. Jahangir Alam Sarker, Line Director, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent health (MNCAH), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and Miranda Beckman, Deputy Director, Office of Population Health Nutrition and Education, USAID Bangladesh.  Representatives from different government departments, international and national agencies attended the program.

This research shows that AFHC initiatives are successfully reaching unmarried adolescent girls with a range of health services, both general and SRH-related, through established health facilities. Adolescent girls who took services from those AFHC expressed satisfaction with AFHC service providers.

However, this study also found that service providers mainly FWV and SACMO who are assigned for AFHCs face difficulty operating in multiple places throughout their day – outdoor service points to serve mothers and children and AFHCs to serve adolescents. This study recommended that more service providers need to be trained to increase the availability of AFHS and to prevent service provider’s workload.

Population Council organized a seminar on adolescent health corner

The findings also indicate that social taboo and shyness cause adolescents and their family to discourage seeking treatment from the adolescent friendly health corners at government facilities. Because many local people consider MCWC and UHFWC as ‘family planning clinic’ thus they feel discomfort to send their unmarried adolescent girls to those facilities for taking SRH services.

According to a 17 years old adolescent girl “I have heard that if any adolescent girl comes to take service at MCWC or UHFWC, people of the community think she is pregnant or for any complicated problem. Even if the service providers go to houses people ask about the reasons”.

Research findings also showed that shortages of medicine and lack of privacy for adolescents are one of the major challenges that should be resolved to make the AFHC functional. Many adolescent girls demand separate waiting rooms for adolescents inside the facility compound to confirm privacy.

This study recommended for more publicity at the local and national level and generating awareness about the importance of AFHS in the community. The study also emphasized on collaboration between different departments’ of Health and Education ministries and also between Government and NGOs to make the AFHC intervention successful and effective.

In Bangladesh, regardless of socio-economic status or educational background, open discussion about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) remains a cultural taboo, particularly for adolescents and young people, and particularly among unmarried adolescents.

Most parents express discomfort discussing SRH issues with their adolescent children. School teachers are also reluctant to discuss SRH issues with their students. As a result, adolescents in Bangladesh have very limited or no access to SRH-related information and services and face serious barriers to getting information and guidance regarding SRH issues. In Bangladesh, a large number of adolescents are sexually active because many of them are married, especially girls. Marriage rate before the age of 18 is 59 which is really very high (BDHS 2014).

The Population Council is an international, nonprofit, non-governmental organization. The Council conducts research in biomedicine, social science, and public health and helps build research capacities in developing countries.

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