Professor Gavin George seated to the left of the Malawian Minister of Health, the Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda along with colleagues from the APHRC and UNESCO.

In 2020, researchers from the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) at UKZN, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Kenya, and the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi formed a partnership to conduct a problem-based political economy analysis (PB-PEA) of adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services in Malawi.

The objectives of the study were to:
1) Identify key actors who influence decision-making and implementation around the provision of adolescent SRH services, their interests and motivations; and
2) Understand the role played by politics, economics, and socio-cultural and religious beliefs in the implementation of existing laws and policies, whilst identifying potential policy and law reforms which would strengthen the provision of SRH services for adolescents.

The final report highlights that, while the Malawian government remains supportive of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), implementation is limited and is not a priority within schools. It also details how civil society organisations are augmenting the provision of health services to adolescents and their critical role in influencing policy and implementation strategies.

A national symposium on Adolescents and Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR) was held in Lilongwe, Malawi from 28 February to 2 March 2023, providing an opportunity for multi-stakeholder engagement on how Malawi can enhance provision of youth-friendly SRH services through shifting social norms that restrict access to ASRHR information and services. It also explored community-based interventions that work with parents and guardians and highlighted the critical role of health providers and community leaders. The meeting energised key stakeholders, including officials from key ministries, and it was agreed that civil society networks should play the critical role of holding office bearers accountable to both regional and national policy proclamations.

During the meeting the final report on the PB-PEA on adolescents’ access to SRH information and services was handed to the Malawian Minister of Health.