Very Young Adolescent (VYA) Sexual and Reproductive Health Resource Library

Toolkit Purpose. This toolkit is for program managers, educators, health workers, advocates, researchers and policy makers committed to making a difference in the lives of very young adolescents (girls and boys between the ages of 10-14). The toolkit offers resources which address the unique developmental, cognitive, and social opportunities and challenges facing this age group. It provides links to examples of successful programs, research results, curricula, advocacy materials and other resources useful for working with VYAs.

What is the challenge? There are about 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today, and 50% of them (around 600 million) are between 10-14 years old. So far, this age group—sometimes referred to as very young adolescents (VYA)—has been overlooked in most sexual and reproductive health programs and policies, which are often directed at older adolescents. Also, little comprehensive data exists for VYAs. Yet, this group faces unique challenges: they are beginning puberty, seeking information, developing attitudes, and experimenting with behaviors that will affect their current and future well-being.  This life stage lays the foundation for young people to establish healthy behaviors and relationships, and avoid coerced or unwanted sex, which can lead to early pregnancy, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and intimate partner violence.

This is when interventions are most needed. Early adolescence marks the beginning of a transition from child to adult, setting the stage for future sexual and reproductive health and solidifying gender norms and attitudes. Interventions with VYAs can lay the foundations for lifelong healthy relationships, behaviors and practices.  Although VYAs are beginning to form close relationships with their peers, they still need their family and community to establish boundaries, provide a sense of belonging, and support learning and skills development. But while caring adults seek to protect VYAs, many are ill-prepared to provide this support. VYA programs can equip adults with information on the issues girls and boys face during puberty, and provide the communication skills required to guide children safely through these transitional years.

Solutions involve everyone. Join with the VYA Alliance to support policies and programs that prioritize VYAs. This is an imperative step in our quest to achieve a healthy future for the world’s next generation.

Toolkit last updated: March 13, 2020

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