MOMENTUM’s Efforts to Strengthen Youth Health Care and Leadership

Published on August 10, 2021

Yagazie Emezi/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

On International Youth Day, MOMENTUM recognizes and celebrates young leaders working to improve health and support other youth leaders. As a suite of projects focused on ensuring equitable access to respectful, quality maternal, newborn, and child health, voluntary family planning, and reproductive health (MNCH/FP/RH) services, youth health and leadership is essential to achieving our goals.

With more than 1.8 billion young people (aged 10-24) in the world today,1 youth must thrive for a society to thrive. Unfortunately, many young people face numerous challenges to their health and well-being, including early marriage and early pregnancy, higher risks of maternal and infant illness and death, and malnutrition.

MOMENTUM bolsters the efforts of young leaders in their communities by offering support to youth champions and working to improve healthcare quality, delivery of services and supplies, and health policies.

Here are a few ways we contribute to advancing youth health and elevating youth voices:

  • Facilitate youth leadership and meaningful youth engagement: MOMENTUM is partnering with the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, a global youth-led organization, to develop a High Impact Practices Strategic Planning Guide on meaningful adolescent and youth engagement and partnership. Through this guide, youth will provide donors, country governments, and implementers with concrete strategies to partner with young people.
  • Understand and strengthen youth-led social accountability for health: MOMENTUM has invested in understanding the landscape of youth-led social accountability. Then, to address some of the gaps identified, we are funding two youth-led and youth-serving partners in Ghana and Kenya to expand their youth-led social accountability efforts. MOMENTUM provides technical assistance and capacity development to these partners through regular learning sessions, documentation, organizational capacity assessments, and action planning.
  • Improve accessibility and quality of health care for youth: MOMENTUM works with ministries of health and partners across Africa and Asia to co-create and co-implement appropriate, youth-responsive care. This approach is expected to improve youth access to and quality of critical maternal and reproductive health care, such as contraceptive services, and safe and indicated surgical obstetric maternal care.
  • Strengthen the organizational and technical capacity of youth-led and youth-serving organizations: From Sierra Leone to Kenya to Bangladesh, MOMENTUM funds local partners to support evidence-based programming for youth. For example, MOMENTUM has partnered with two organizations in Bangladesh to help them implement evidence-based young adolescent programming in their communities, assess their organizational and technical capacities, and create responsive action plans.

A Youth Leader’s Story

Hellen Ayenyo, a 24-year-old youth leader in Juba, South Sudan. Credit: IMA World Health

Hellen Ayenyo is a 24-year-old South Sudanese student and youth leader at a Seventh Day Adventist church in Eastern Equatoria State, not too far south of Juba, South Sudan’s capital. She sees herself as an advocate for change and a voice for the voiceless in her community.

“My future will be full of advocacy for change and helping the needy,” she said. “In terms of leadership, I want to ensure that I help reduce [the number of] girls and boys dropping out of school, and spearhead promoting community empowerment on family planning, maternal and child health, and gender-based violence issues.”

Her involvement with MOMENTUM started when project staff visited her church to meet youth leaders. She sees MOMENTUM as a partner and resource to help her community outreach and advocacy. For example, in a radio talk show that MOMENTUM helped organize, she called into the show and contributed to a discussion on voluntary family planning, sharing her unique perspectives and experiences.

With potential MOMENTUM support, Hellen hopes to work with her peers to destigmatize youth access to contraceptive services, a challenge facing youth in her community.  As a church youth leader, she hopes her future collaborations with MOMENTUM will help offset negative peer group social pressures through activities engaging youth groups, health clubs, and faith-based programs.  In South Sudan and other countries, MOMENTUM has plans to support young people to organize, mobilize peers into strong movements, and develop agency through Youth Community Action Teams.

Looking to the Future

Young people like Hellen are vital to increasing partner country commitment and capacity and accelerating progress towards high-quality MNCH/FP/RH. To ensure youth voices are heard and youth leadership positions are created, MOMENTUM works first to build supportive country health systems and policies for youth well-being.

MOMENTUM’s work with young people seeks to advance positive youth development and builds on the evidence and learning generated by USAID’s YouthPower projects. Going forward, MOMENTUM will continue to build partnerships with youth-led organizations and networks to elevate their voices and strengthen their organizational and technical capacities. These partnerships will result in greater effectiveness in supporting more resilient health and community systems for improved MNCH/FP/RH outcomes for all.

About the MOMENTUM Projects Supporting Youth Health Care and Leadership

MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience works to improve access to high-quality, respectful, and person-centered maternal, newborn, and child health, voluntary family planning, and reproductive health care in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The project enhances coordination between development and humanitarian organizations and strengthens the resilience of individuals, families, and communities in partner countries.

MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership project works in tandem with country governments and local nongovernmental organizations to provide targeted technical and capacity development assistance and contribute to the global technical leadership and policy dialogue on improving measurable outcomes for maternal, newborn, and child health; voluntary family planning; and reproductive health care.

MOMENTUM Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics supports the expansion of quality fistula care, including addressing barriers to care and treatment created by a lack of knowledge and stigma about the condition; addressing the causes of fistula that result from surgery; and advancing global targets to end fistula by 2030. The project also supports surgical services for voluntary family planning, including long-acting reversible contraception and permanent family planning methods.


  1. UNFPA. The Power of 1.8 Billion Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future: State of World Population 2014.
  2. Sully, E.A., et al. “Adding It Up: Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2019.” New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2020. https://
  3. UNFPA. “Girlhood, not Motherhood: Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy.” 2015.
  4. World Health Organization.
  5. UNFPA. “UNFPA in 2019: Global Highlights.” 2020.

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