Name of Intervention/ Program
SKY Girls

Background and Situation Analysis
The partnership between UNICEF Regional Office (ESAR) and SKY Girls emerges against the backdrop of UNICEF’s global adolescent girls strategy, “building back equal with and for adolescent girls.” This strategy underscores the urgent need for increased investment in the agency and leadership of girls, aiming to address the multifaceted challenges they face worldwide. In alignment with this overarching goal, UNICEF ESAR is spearheading efforts to model and implement the strategy, recognizing the potential of partnerships like SKY Girls to amplify the voices and perspectives of adolescent girls. In Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana, adolescent girls grapple with significant challenges related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). According to statistics from UNICEF and other reputable sources, the prevalence of early and unintended pregnancies and the spread of STIs amongst adolescent girls is alarmingly high among adolescent girls in these countries. In order to better understand the issues in these countries, SKY Girls through media partners in Kenya, Zambia & Botswana held in-person focus groups with girls from high- and low-income households. From these focus groups, the main issues around SRH were derived with the most common insight across the countries being that adolescent girls are engaging in romantic relationships and struggle to share their experiences with family members and struggle to get the necessary support and access to resources they need. Although adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASHR) is a continental public health concern, there is little movement on policy-change at a national level. The statistics underscore the critical importance of initiatives like SKY Girls in providing tailored support and resources to adolescent girls in these countries. Through social marketing tools, there is a shift in public health knowledge. By leveraging the insights and co-creation opportunities offered by the SKY Girls platform, UNICEF ESAR aims to address the root causes of SRHR challenges, empower girls to make informed decisions about their bodies and futures, and ultimately contribute to the realization of UNICEF’s global adolescent girls strategy. Through strategic partnerships and evidence-based interventions, the collaboration between UNICEF ESAR and SKY Girls seeks to amplify the voices of adolescent girls, promote gender equality, and foster a future where all girls can thrive and fulfill their potential.

Priority Audiences(s)
SKY Girls is a targeted initiative designed for adolescent girls aged 13 to 19. This age range encapsulates a crucial period of development where young girls navigate challenges and form lifelong attitudes. By focusing on ages 13 to 19, SKY Girls strategically tailors its program to address the unique needs, concerns, and aspirations of this demographic. During these formative years, girls are shaping their identities and facing pivotal experiences related to menstrual health, sexual and reproductive health rights, and climate justice.

Behavioral Objectives
The primary behavioral objectives for SRHR content across Botswana, Kenya, and Zambia centered on assessing attitudes and knowledge among teenage girls regarding sexual and reproductive health and relationships. Through comprehensive research and in-person focus groups, our aim was to gain a nuanced understanding of the prevailing norms and perceptions surrounding SRHR issues within these communities. Armed with this insight, our objective was to create tailored content that effectively addresses and challenges existing norms, particularly in areas related to consent and healthy relationships. By fostering a shift in attitudes and empowering teenage girls with accurate information and resources, we sought to promote positive behavioral changes conducive to safer and more informed decision-making in matters of sexual and reproductive health.

Description of Strategy/Intervention
The SKY strategy is rooted in understanding and addressing what matters most to teenage girls, focusing on their innate desires for social inclusion, belonging, and identity formation and not the issue (SRHR attitudes)- human centered design. By centering our approach around these fundamental needs, we aim to create a broader empowerment platform that resonates deeply with our target audience. Our qualitative research has revealed that social inclusion and the quest for belonging are paramount to teenage girls, intricately intertwined with their journey of self-discovery and identity formation. Recognizing this, SKY goes beyond merely tackling specific issues to become a movement—a sisterhood that girls feel proud to belong to, something larger than themselves. At the heart of the SKY strategy is the principle of authenticity and community-led empowerment. We do not dictate to girls what they should do or how they should think; rather, we provide a platform that amplifies their authentic voices and experiences. Our content, including key messaging, is co-created with teenage girls themselves, ensuring that it reflects their perspectives, aspirations, and concerns. Through this collaborative approach, SKY becomes a space where girls feel empowered to express themselves, share their stories, and advocate for issues that matter to them. For this specific issue which UNICEF-funded, our research has highlighted teenage girls’ curiosity and interest in relationships, signaling a crucial opportunity to address the concept of consent. BMJ Global Health (2020), reports that’s ASRH programs in Sub-Saharan Africa need to be country-specific to be impactful. Recognizing this, the SKY Girls platform which is country-specific was utilized to ensure messaging and language is fitting for the three countries addressed. We recognize the importance of equipping girls with the knowledge and confidence to navigate consent in various kinds of relationships, particularly in romantic contexts. By integrating lessons on consent into our broader empowerment platform, we aim to shift attitudes and empower girls to establish boundaries in their romantic relationships. Through everyday practice and reinforcement, we seek to cultivate a culture where girls feel confident and comfortable in giving and understanding consent, thereby fostering healthier and more respectful relationships. The more girls practice consent and weave it into their everyday decision-making, the more this inspires confidence, agency, and resilience in them. This works because the SKY identity is centered around asking girls to define for themselves “my thing” and “NOT my thing”.

Implementation of the SKY strategy in Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana was tailored to the unique cultural contexts and preferences of teenage girls in each country. Drawing from our research insights, we prioritized video content as the primary medium for engagement, recognizing its popularity and effectiveness in reaching our target audience. While understanding that lower income girls have limited/no access to social media, in Kenya & Zambia where we have a SKY Hub (physical space where girls SKY girls come to hang out and get information), we played the videos on loop. In Botswana, where the SKY magazine is the most impactful channel, we included content in the magazine such as a quiz and article on light-touch SRHR issues. In Kenya and Zambia, where teenage girls exhibit greater openness towards discussing romantic relationships, we leveraged this inclination to create impactful video content. Collaborating with local SKY girls in Kenya, we facilitated the creation of videos that explored the concepts of “green flags” and “red flags” in relationships. By involving everyday girls in the discussion, we aimed to normalize conversations about healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics, fostering a sense of relatability and empowerment among viewers. Similarly, in Zambia, we partnered with prominent teen-girl social media influencers and regular SKY girls to address the topic of consent through video content. By featuring aspirational figures alongside peers, we emphasized the importance of consent and demonstrated its relevance in everyday interactions. Additionally, in response to research indicating a specific interest in understanding HIV/AIDS better among Zambian girls, we dedicated a video to debunking myths and providing factual information about the virus. This approach not only addressed their curiosity but also reinforced the importance of consent in sexual health contexts. In Botswana, where girls tend to prefer discussing relationships with friends and sisters, we adopted a creative approach to content creation. A trending social media video depicting the characteristics of a typical SKY girl served as a catalyst for promoting confidence and boundary-setting among viewers. Subsequently, we engaged both girls and boys of varying ages in discussions about consent and its implications in different scenarios. By involving boys in the conversation, we aimed to foster mutual understanding and responsibility in upholding consent within relationships. Across all regions, the SKY platform served as a safe and non-judgmental space—a “Big Sister”-where girls could freely engage with SRHR topics. By empowering girls to co-create content and share their experiences, we facilitated peer-to-peer learning and encouraged a sense of ownership and agency. Through strategic partnerships, creative storytelling, and informed messaging, our implementation approach ensured that teenage girls in Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana received relevant, relatable, and empowering information about SRHR, ultimately fostering positive behavioral change and promoting healthier attitudes towards relationships and consent. All content was cross posted across the country pages so that SKY girls feel connected even through varying regions.

Evaluation Methods and Results
The utilization of light-touch metrics focusing on reach for evaluating the impact of SRHR content through the SKY Girls platforms was strategically aligned with the overarching goals and principles of the SKY strategy, as well as with social marketing theories. By setting a target of reaching 300,000 adolescent girls across Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana, and an additional 2,000 girls through SKY hubs in Kenya and Zambia, the evaluation method prioritized the dissemination and accessibility of SRHR information to a wide audience. This approach was underpinned by the understanding that reaching a large number of adolescent girls is a crucial first step towards initiating behavioral change and promoting positive outcomes in SRHR. The success of this evaluation method can be attributed to several factors rooted in the SKY strategy and the unique approach of the SKY Girls program. Firstly, the SKY strategy, which emphasizes authenticity, community-led empowerment, and peer-to-peer engagement, served as a catalyst for amplifying the reach and impact of SRHR content. By integrating SRHR messages into a broader empowerment platform based on the idea of “being true to themselves,” SKY Girls effectively captured the attention and interest of adolescent girls across Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana. This approach resonated with the target audience, fostering a sense of belonging and trust within the SKY community, and encouraging girls to engage with SRHR content in a meaningful way. Additionally, by co-creating content with teenage girls themselves and amplifying their authentic voices, SKY Girls established itself as a trusted and relatable source of SRHR information. This peer-to-peer approach not only increased the reach of SRHR content but also ensured its relevance and resonance with the target audience, ultimately driving higher engagement and uptake among adolescent girls in all three markets. The surpassing of targets in all three markets—Kenya, Zambia, and Botswana—underscores the effectiveness of the SKY strategy and implementation approach. Through strategic partnerships, creative storytelling, and informed messaging, SKY Girls was able to overcome barriers to access and successfully reach a diverse range of adolescent girls, including those in remote and marginalized communities. This achievement speaks to the program’s adaptability, scalability, and impact, positioning it as a model for future SRHR initiatives within UNICEF and beyond.

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