[originally posted on the Interagency Youth Working Group Blog, Half the World]
Adolescence presents a window of opportunity to intervene before most young people become sexually active and before gender roles and norms with negative sexual and reproductive health consequences become solidified. The knowledge, attitudes and skills acquired during the ages of 10 to 14 set the stage for future relationships and communication with sexual partners about rights and responsibilities and for developing self-care practices and behaviors to prevent unwanted sexual relationships, unintended pregnancy, and disease.
Research findings from IRH’s work in Rwanda and Guatemala suggest that girls and boys often begin puberty without sufficient information about their changing bodies and emerging fertility—information necessary to make critical decisions to protect their reproductive health.
As a result, IRH developed CycleSmart™, a package of tools tailored to girls ages 10-14. It was developed and tested in collaboration with youth-serving organizations in Rwanda and Guatemala and is based on research conducted with adolescents, their parents, and their communities. The Kit includes CycleBeads, (the color-coded beads typically used with the Standard Days Method of family planning that can also be a visual and tactile way of teaching girls about menstruation and fertility); a calendar; a weekly diary; reusable/washable sanitary napkins; and a country-specific brochure called CycleSmart, which includes topics like the menstrual cycle, puberty-related changes, risk of pregnancy, gender norms, and safety tips. Preliminary evaluation results show that CycleSmart is a useful tool for teaching boys and girls about puberty and fertility. [Download: English | Kinyarwanda |Spanish]
To provide parents, educators, youth-focused organizations, health providers, religious leaders and others with tips and resources on how to use CycleSmart and how to talk to boys and girls about puberty and fertility, we’ve created the user-friendly CycleSmart Programmatic Guidelines.
What are people saying about CycleSmart?
“This is an excellent project; it will help girls to prepare for their menstrual periods in advance, so they won’t be surprised or be absent from school because of periods anymore.” –Female parent from Rwamagana, Rwanda
“My mum used to ask me every day if I had moved the ring or if I had filled the diary, so I enjoyed it because she was closer to me and more concerned.”-Adolescent girl from Kicukiro, Rwanda
“Using CycleSmart to discuss puberty changes with parents or teachers will make us confident to discuss such things with any person.”-Adolescent boy from Rwamagana, Rwanda
IRH is working on adapting CycleSmart for U.S.-based audiences. Stay tuned for more information!
To access the brochure, click here.