Adapting Through Covid-19: October 2020 Lessons from Teenage Pregnancy Programmes in Sierra Leone

Authored by: Stephanie Buell and Clare Castillejo

Categories: Global Public Health, Human Rights
Sub-Categories: COVID-19, Economic Participation, Human Development, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: Sierra Leone
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2020
Citation: Buell, Stephanie and Clare Castillejo. "Adapting Through Covid-19: October 2020 Lessons from Teenage Pregnancy Programmes in Sierra Leone." Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium. October 2020.

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Executive Summary

Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the world: 28% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have children. There is evidence that this high teenage pregnancy rate is fuelled by a diverse set of drivers, including: lack of information, knowledge and skills; weak institutions and services; poverty and girls’ limited access to assets; widespread sexual violence and exploitation; and engrained social and gender norms that make girls vulnerable to early sex and pregnancy. However, programming in this area has mostly focused on a limited set of intervention areas, notably sexual and reproductive health information, access to contraceptives, and mentoring and life skills training for girls.

Recognising the gap between the complexity of drivers and this limited range of responses, the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is implementing the Adaptive approaches to reducing teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone action research programme, funded by Irish Aid. Under this programme, an action research team (ART), based in Freetown and supported by ODI staff, accompanies Save the Children, Concern Worldwide and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as they test different strategies to address the problem of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. Specifically, the team helps these organisations to develop and trial new theories of change that address the wider array of drivers of teenage pregnancy, and supports and documents their work as they seek to implement these programmes using adaptive management approaches.

This brief captures the observations and reflections of these organisations’ staff in responding programmatically to the pandemic, rather than being an account of the impacts of Covid-19 in Sierra Leone more broadly. This forms part of our ongoing documentation of learning: what is actually going on in terms of adaptation, knowledge gaining, and what it means not to lose sight of the original goals of the programme, even in the middle of a pandemic.