Empowering girls to take ownership of their reproductive health by accessing information
Education on sexual and reproductive health is an important tool in protecting teenagers and adolescents from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and unplanned pregnancies. In Tanzania, lack of comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health places teenagers and young adults at risk. 4.7% of adolescents ages 10-19 were living with HIV in 20161, and according to the Ministry of Health, 27% of teenage girls became pregnant in 2016. Due to stigma surrounding the topics of sexual and reproductive health, teenagers generally do not receive sufficient information from parents and teachers. Instead, they either do not receive such information or must rely on their equally uninformed peers.
Photo Credit: Sharon Kabika
There is a need to connect young people with information and counseling on sexual health, so that they are equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to protect themselves, particularly against HIV/AIDs. This includes information on the risks of HIV infection, locations of HIV testing points, and information on other aspects of sexual health.
Asha Abbas Kombo, creator of AuraTeen, has seen first-hand girls in her classes drop out due to negative peer influence and unplanned pregnancy. This led her to create AuraTeen as a way to disseminate information on sexual health. AuraTeen (www.Aurateen.org) is an online platform that provides sexual health awareness by giving teenagers access to information, advice, and counseling. AuraTeen allows users to post questions about sexual health, receive counseling from volunteer health experts, and interact with peers online. Teens can speak to peers online to discuss issues and share experiences on how they have overcome challenges. To increase user access, AuraTeen is developing a mobile app and a USSD mode, which will help those who are not able to access the Internet obtain sexual health education, consultation, counseling, and information.
AuraTeen is a national project that engages directly with teens through an online platform, via a website and mobile application. Through the online platform, AuraTeen aims to reach teens all around the world. The website is available in different languages, allowing teens to use the language with which they are comfortable.
AuraTeens’s application and web-based system allows students to communicate anonymously with doctors and other health experts. During the registration process the user voluntarily provides information such as age, gender, and education level. However, providing names and contact details is optional to maintain anonymity. The website allows teenagers to ask questions and provides information on relevant topics. Someone can propose a topic, and the team evaluates these questions to create relevant, up-to-date content.
In order to ensure the information on the platform is accurate, AuraTeen has involved doctors and other medical professionals, who operate using specific accounts. To recruit doctors to the platform, the team communicated with different hospitals to explain their objectives, mission, and vision. After the initial introduction, they asked for doctors or health experts willing to volunteer his/her time. These healthcare professionals operate accounts which allow them greater access to the system. They can see all the questions and can reply any time and are the ones creating content for youth or helping to edit the existing content.
Outcomes and Impacts
“Our goal is to reach out to young people and provide them with sexual health education to keep them safe from HIV, early pregnancy, school dropouts, and negative peer pressure”
In August 2018, AuraTeen was launched in Dar es Salaam through seminars conducted at schools and in the community to raise sexual health awareness impacting more than 500 teens. Additionally, 400 school students were surveyed during the design phase of the project.
As of April 2019 the AuraTeen platform has over 16,000 users who have asked over 7, 000 questions and received over 10,000 answers.
1. “AIDSinfo”, UNAIDS, 2017
Asha Abbas Kombo is the 18-year-old team leader for AuraTeen. When she was in school, her fellow teens experienced issues like teenage pregnancy and school dropout, which increased their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because of this experience, Asha came up with AuraTeen to provide teens with sexual health awareness online. The Data for Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC) is the key collaborator in the implementation of this project. AuraTeen also collaborates with both public and private secondary schools in Tanzania. Moreover, the team works with doctors from Mikonimat Hospital which is located in Chamazi, Mbagala. DLIIC provided AuraTeen with a USD 25,000 grant and a mentor to guide their work. Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) is sustaining the good work performed by DLI project to further engage, support, and connect Tanzanian innovators, developers, and solution providers to each other and to opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. To learn more, visit https://dlab.or.tz/.