Marie Stopes International delivers outreach family planning services in some of the most remote and fragile settings in the Sahel.
In 2016 we conducted qualitative research to understand the needs and behaviours of young women towards family planning in the Sahelian ‘resilience zone’ bordering Burkina Faso and Niger, as well as rural areas of neighbouring Mali. We interviewed youth users of our outreach services, non-users living in these communities, male partners, female relatives of youth, community leaders and programme staff to understand what opportunities exist to better empower and enable young women to control their fertility in these contexts.
The study showed that while many young women in these communities knew about modern contraceptives, dominant cultural norms requiring proof of fertility and large family sizes persisted, and that young women’s decision-making power was limited. Windows of opportunity to raise awareness of family planning among youth were identified, including promotion of the educational, economic and health rationales to use contraception; as well as service delivery strategies that increase confidentiality, such as integration with maternal and child health services. Communication to dispel concerns about the effects of long-acting reversible contraception on fertility may also be effective for advocacy and demand generation.