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The flagship youth programme of UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), The Safeguard Young People programme (SYP) is now expanded to four more countries: Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda and Tanzania. 

Launched on November 22, 2021, the expanded five year programme funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, envisages a Southern Africa where all adolescents and young people aged 10-24 are healthy, productive and empowered. This entails protection them from sexually transmitted infections including HIV, unintended pregnancies, child marriages and gender-based violence and equipping them with comprehensive knowledge and skills regarding their sexuality, rights, and health seeking behaviors.

“As a long standing partner of SYP, Switzerland has been able to witness at first hand, the impact that the programme has on the lives of adolescents and young people in the southern Africa region. Switzerland is proud to be part of it, we are pleased that the benefit of this collaboration are now being expanded to Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania” Said Ambassador Thomas Grass Vice-Director and Head of the South Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) at the launch of SYP expansion.

Expanding to the new four countries will benefit from lessons learned of the past eight years but most importantly they will be able to share their own experiences as part of the peer exchange and further enhance South – South cooperation, which is at the heart of the Safeguard Young People model and ensure its continued improvement. 

"Given the tangible results that the programme has achieved in the first 8 participating countries, Switzerland is convinced that SYP is an innovative approach that has a sound standing point to take on similar challenges in other countries in the east and southern Africa region.” Ambassador Thomas Grass added. 

Youth peer educators on Sexual Reproductive Health and Gender Based Violence prevention in humanitarian settings. Photo/September 2021

In Rwanda, the SYP programme has been implemented since May 2021, at national level and in the 3 UNFPA supported districts - Rusizi, Nyamasheke and Karongi. The programme intends to greatly contribute to improved Sexual Reproductive Health status of young people by supporting youth and adolescents to access ASRH services, including Menstrual Health, Youth Friendly Services and Comprehensive Sexuality Education. 

The programme focuses on the advocacy for a conducive legal and policy framework for young people; youth empowerment through roll out of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for in and out of school adolescents and youth, including access to vocational skills and Interventions on HIV, teenage pregnancy prevention, gender transformative norms and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) among others.

“I can not express enough the joy that I have to see the SYP programme coming to Rwanda. I know that the programme will benefit young people in Rwanda in many ways. Young people have experienced different sexual reproductive related issues. We need to create an environment where our young people will realize their potential without facing the same issues that they are facing now.” Said Evode NIYIBIZI, Country Director of AFRIYAN Rwanda

“There is no other way to do that than empowering young people in having and improving access to SRH information and service and creating a legal environment which can enabling them to enjoy their sexual reproductive health and rights” He added

Young people in a workshop organized by AFRIYAN to refresh their commitment on Sexual Reproductive Health and right and Gender Based Violence prevention. Photos/May 2021

As the youth population is growing in many countries of the region, it is more crucial than ever that countries and partners increase their efforts to support young people to realize their full potential. 

“The Netherlands has been working with UNFPA for many years. Over the past years we supported multi-choices programmes and we have appreciated the approach of UNFPA, its activities especially for the development of young people.” Said Ms. Henny de Vries, the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 

“We truly believe that working together, pulling resources with UNFPA and SDC, we will reach more young people and it will have a big impact on changing the lives of those who are most in need. With this partnership we aim to leave no one behind in this region.”  Ms. Henny de Vries added. 

The programme has been instrumental in working with countries to improve the policy and legal environment while strengthening the capacity of health service providers and championing youth participation in activities that empower them. 

In the process over 21 million adolescents and young people have been reached with programme and comprehensive sexual reproductive health education in and out of schools as well as social and behavioral change communications. More than 8 million adolescents and young people have benefited from integrated HIV and Sexual and Reproductive health services. Over 2,3 million young people have adopted protective sexual behaviors thanks to increased knowledge and skills In addition, the SYP has contributed significantly not only to major policy breakthroughs and concussive building at the regional level but also to the meaningful domestication of regional initiatives at national level.

Launching the program in Rwanda, in May this year, Marc de Santis, the SDC Regional Director reaffirmed SDC commitment to actively raising the quality of life of young people in Rwanda. 

“The SYP program comes as a complementary intervention to our existing program targeting young people in Rwanda. SDC particularly commendes that SYP integrates gender transformative aspects. This program not only gives adolescent girls and young women access to key services but also helps communities understand and challenges social norms that perpetuate inequality between boys and girls.” He said.