An assessment of the capacity of faculty-based youth friendly reproductive health services to promote sexual and reproductive health among unmarried adolescents: evidence from rural Malawi
Jimmy-Gama, D. (2009) An assessment of the capacity of faculty-based youth friendly reproductive health services to promote sexual and reproductive health among unmarried adolescents: evidence from rural Malawi, no. 464.
Despite the recognition of the influence of cultural norms on adolescent sexual behaviours in most societies (Kaler 2004; Chege 2005), less attention has been paid to the link between social norms and effectiveness of health facilities to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH). This thesis therefore examines the capacity of facilitybased youth-friendly reproductive health services (YFRHS) to promote ASRH in rural Malawian societies where culture strongly influences adolescent sexual behaviours. The study employs a social constructionist epistemology and a social interactionism theory to understand the capacity of YFRHS in ASRH promotion in rural Malawi. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected using a sequential exploratory design. Semi-structured in-depth interviews, participant observations, client exit interviews, survey, focus group discussions and review of health strategic and service utilisation documents/records were conducted. The results were generated by triangulating both qualitative and quantitative data. The findings of the study illuminate how social norms related to social identities influence adolescent sexual behaviours and ASRH promotion. An exploration of the cultural context reveals a major disjuncture between an ideal norm - no premarital sex - and a modelled norm where unmarried adolescents are expected to engage in unsafe sex. It also shows the conflicts between the cultural and scientific models of ASRH promotion. Structural gender asymmetry that emphasises subservience in females and hegemonic masculinity also reduces adolescents' rights and agency in SRH promotion. The health providers are cultural agents. They manage diverse roles both as 'moral guardians' and as 'health promoters' in a way that limits their effectiveness as health promoters. The thesis concludes that the way facility-based YFRHS is implemented has limited impact on SRH promotion among unmarried adolescents of rural Malawi. The study recommends that appropriate health promotion interventions based on conscientisationoriented empowerment theories directed at adolescents, community and health workers should be used in ASRH promotion in societies with strong cultural influence on sexual behaviours.