Digital Sister for Urban Youth: Using New Technology For Effective SRHR Communication for Urban Youth of Bangladesh

Consortium

Coordinator: Anita Hardon, Professor, Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Consortium partners

  • Sabina Faiz Rashid, Dean & Professor, James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh
  • Ivy Huq Russell, Founder, Mayalogy Pvt. Ltd., Bangladesh

Summary of results (2019)

CGSRHR under BRAC JPGSPH, BRAC University carried out an innovative research named Digital Sister for Urban Youth in collaboration with AISSR, University of Amsterdam and Mayalogy Private Limited, with the financial support from the NWO-WOTRO. This research was a first of its kind to explore how Bangladeshi urban youth (age 15-24 years) seek SRHR information online, a popular space for this segment of the population to avoid traditional gatekeepers and social stigma. The research team applied mixed method approach to conduct the study, including the usage of digital platform for data mining purposes. FGDs were conducted with over 200 young men and women from 11 educational institutions and youth-based organizations in two largest cities of the country - Dhaka and Chittagong. In addition, approximately 51,914 SRHR related questions posted on Maya Apa, an online anonymous messaging platform, were analysed to compare and contrast how young people navigate through social barriers around tabooed topics.

The study revealed that young people strongly trust even unverified information on SRHR, from different digital platforms, mainly Google, Facebook, and YouTube. Within the context of no formal sex education and severe taboos around SRH topics, online platforms are private, lowering discomfort and the possibility of being shamed by gatekeepers and peers alike. By triangulating data from the interviews/FGDs and the online question mining/analysing, the research demonstrated that young people have very little knowledge of their own bodies and wellbeing, leading to possibilities of health and social risks. Alongside, the research found that majority of the questions were asked by young men, indicating the general lack of information on men’s health and invisibility around masculinity. Lastly, the research further developed communication materials based on the findings including videos on Cyber Harassment and Men’s Health, and an informational booklet titled “Amra Jante Chai” (We Want to Know).

Summary of progress

This project aims to understand SRHR needs of middle class youth (15-24 years of age) living in urban areas in Bangladesh, identify knowledge and skills gaps among the SRHR service providers, and develop digital SRHR behaviour change communication tools. workers and counsellors) to gain insights about available services, gaps and information needs. Content analyses of SRHR training curricula and existing communication tools are being conducted. The study findings will provide critical insights into the current landscape of Bangladeshi urban youth and will be the inputs for developing digital SRHR behaviour change communication tools to be used by urban youth and practitioners.

One of the consortium partners is Maya.com.bd who operates an online information sharing platform known as ‘Maya Apa’ through its web-site and android-based mobile app. The team is analysing the database of Maya Apa to understand the type of information urban youths are looking for and the responses given online. Preliminary data shared in the local kick-off meeting in June 2016, already generated a greater interest among the stakeholders working in the SRHR and ICT sectors. Planned in year-2 first quarter are a series of interviews and focus group discussions with the youth and SRHR service providers (doctors, social workers and counsellors) to gain insights about available services, gaps and information needs. Content analyses of SRHR training curricula and existing communication tools are being conducted. The study findings will provide critical insights into the current landscape of Bangladeshi urban youth and will be the inputs for developing digital SRHR behavior change communication tools to be used by urban youth and practitioners.

Summary

Bangladesh is fast urbanizing with an estimated 35% to be now considered inhibiting major cities and tertiary towns. Youth population of over 30 million is leading internal migration for work and education bringing about monumental socio-economic changes in the country. The established development paradigm prioritized rural development, focusing on poor youth population and their limited to no access to health, legal, and social services. Urban middle-class are under-served, falling through the cracks between interventions exclusively for the poor and non-accessible high-cost private services. A number of assumptions and myths surround the growing urban middle class youth and their social safety needs. There is limited understanding of what this population want and how they are accessing services given strong stigmatization and general lack of information on especially issues of sexuality, sex education, and reproductive health and well-being.

The Maya platform creates a unique space whereby for the first time this digitally and in many instances, economically empowered yet socially limited urban youth have a platform to place their questions anonymously, without the fear of being judged for their decisions and choices. These questions indicate that young people across the socio-economic spectrum face similar challenges when accessing SRHR information and services, yet urban middle-income youth are completely missing from the equation. By using the anonymous and non-judgmental Maya platform, we can better access on the ground burning questions and issues that is affecting the lives of urban youth in Bangladesh.

Output

Professional publication

Publication meant for a broad audience

Publications for the general public

  • S. Siddiqui(2016): Poster Digital sister for Urban Youth
  • S. Siddiqui(2016): Poster Digital Sister for Urban Youth

Details

Project number

W 08.560.009

Main applicant

Prof. dr. A.P. Hardon

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Maatschappij- en Gedragswetenschappen, Sociologie en Antropologie

Team members

S.I. Ahmed, R. Akhter, R. Akter, R. Azmi, T. Biswas, K. Fatama, Prof. dr. A.P. Hardon, R. Hossain, M.J. Hossain, Dr. W. Koster, Dr. S.F. Rashid, Dr. T. Roy, G. Sakir, N. Shakiba, S. Shano, S.S. Siddiqui MSc, A. Zafar

Duration

01/02/2016 to 31/07/2019