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| July 26, 2013

WHO’s Dr. Marleen Temmerman’s video message during IRH/IYWG event emphasizes importance of working with VYAs

As Director of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, Dr. Marleen Temmerman knows that prioritizing very young adolescents is imperative for organizations and policymakers working toward improving sexual and reproductive health across the world.

In a message to the participants of IRH and FHI360’s recent Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) meeting–“The Big Picture: Viewing Gender, SRH and Very Young Adolescents through a Wide Angle Lens”–Dr. Temmerman stated that “Early adolescence is a time with enormous physical, psychological, and social changes [for young people], and changes are beginning or well under way… It is a time when attitudes and values are made, and [those values] have enormous implications on the lives on these young girls and boys, and the lives of those around them.”

Identifying adolescent sexual and reproductive health as a priority of her team, Dr. Temmerman noted that the Department of Reproductive Health and Research is building a portfolio of research on the very young adolescent age group, with the goal of helping researchers and programmers “do the research that will lead to guidelines, to policy, and to actions.” She stated further that WHO is developing guidance on ethical considerations for those conducting research on adolescents, and is working on a clearer understanding of the gendered socialization of very young adolescents.

“As we build our research portfolio, we are also building alliances with academic institutions to strengthen the partnership in carrying out much-needed research, but we are also reaching out and …strengthening our working mechanisms with governments and with NGOs and civil society organizations that have a key role to play in taking the and translating it into policy and practice. Just research-to-publication will not change the world. We want to have research with an impact on what is going on in society.

IRH agrees.

In a final thought, Dr. Temmerman encouraged organizations, researchers and policymakers to actively reach out to adolescents for input and creative answers to long-term problems. “I remember the message of my teenage son when he was 16. He said, ‘Mom, you are always in meetings talking about adolescents, but you don’t talk enough with us. You’re the analog generation, but we’re the digital. You need our brains.’ To make a change, we have to understand what goes on in their community and their way of thinking.”


Watch the full video message here.


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