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UNICEF Indo-Pacific Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights COVID-19 Surge Response (SRHR C-Surge) Oky Initiative and Combatting Child Marriage

Summary of publication

COVID-19 has negatively impacted women and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health services and education, including for sexual and reproductive health. The pandemic has also increased the time these groups spend on digital devices, offering greater opportunity to connect with online, quality assured health information.

Oky is the first-of-its-kind open-source mobile phone period tracker and menstruation education application co-created with and for girls in low and middle income countries (LMICs). It aims to tackle stigma, misconceptions, lack of information and harmful practices around menstruation, puberty and sexual and reproductive health and rights, while supporting users’ digital literacy and safeguarding their privacy and security. C-Surge is supporting UNICEF to roll-out and increase uptake of localised versions of the Oky mobile phone application in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

C-Surge is also supporting UNICEF to accelerate efforts to combat child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) and adolescent pregnancy in Southeast Asia. Pregnancy or marriage in adolescence can have profound, life-long consequences for a girl, including negative impacts on her health, well-being, education and economic prospects, and those of her children and community. The key drivers of CEFM are gender inequality and harmful norms that deprive girls of agency, stigmatise adolescent sexual activity, and promote marriage as the main pathway to adulthood. While many countries made progress in tackling CEFM in the last decade, the pandemic has quickly unwound some of these gains.

The goal of the project is that adolescents in the target areas are empowered to make informed sexual and reproductive choices that prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancy. The project will deliver comprehensive sexuality education, a community-based adolescent health program, social and behaviour change activities and a positive parenting program for the families of teenagers. Under C-Surge, UNICEF is working with a range of government, civil society and UN partners in Laos to prevent early marriage and adolescent pregnancy in five provinces in rural/remote areas with some of the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy and child marriage. In the Philippines, UNICEF will work with departments of education and local government to target adolescents in two focus locations with high rates of teenage pregnancy, online sexual exploitation and abuse, and violence against children.

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