An alternative approach to a complex issue: youth-designed strategies for the prevention of teenage pregnancy in schools
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Teenage pregnancy of school-going girls is a persistent concern, not only in South Africa, but globally. Despite various curricular responses aimed at educating young people about prevention, the numbers continue to rise. While recognising the intersectionality of teenage pregnancy, we believe that school-based prevention measures can play an important role in helping youth to make healthy decisions about their sexual behaviour. However, the effectiveness of the prevention messages depends on how they are designed and delivered. Using a participatory action research design, we engaged 24 peer educators in a process of data generation and analysis to help them to design, implement and evaluate prevention strategies that were found to be youth-friendly, contextualised and culturally relevant. This approach benefitted not only the participating youth in terms of the development of specific life skills, but also influenced how they, their peers and teachers began to think differently about the issue of teenage pregnancy. The research also influenced change in school policy. The findings thus indicate that the involvement of youth in finding ways to address issues that affect their lives may be an important way to improve the effectiveness of such programmes.