Sexual and reproductive health needs and risks of very young adolescent refugees and migrants from Myanmar living in Thailand
The very young adolescent (VYA) population age 10–14 years is often neglected in the field of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) research due to the combined sensitivity of the topic and the young age group, resulting in little data about the SRH needs and concerns of VYA. In 2013, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Adolescent and Reproductive Health Network (ARHN) and Karen Youth Organization (KYO) implemented qualitative participatory research to explore the SRH needs and risks of VYA. The study was conducted in Mae Sot town and Mae La refugee camp, both in Thailand, with migrant populations and refugees, respectively.
A total of 22 focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted with 176 participants. FGD were implemented with girls and boys aged 10–16, and adults in both settings. The FGD with 10–14 year olds included community mapping and photo elicitation interviews. These activities gathered information about their own perspectives, experiences and values regarding SRH, as well as SRH risks. The FGD with 15–16 year olds and adults focused on their perspectives regarding the SRH needs and risks of VYA.
Fourteen (64%) of FGD were conducted in Mae Sot town, and 8 (36%) were conducted in Mae La refugee camp.
Schools, youth centers and religious institutions were identified as key locations for obtaining SRH information. Schools are most promising, but access to schools is unequal between boys and girls. Parents can provide support and education to adolescents if they are supported to do so and if trust and comfort can be built between adolescents and parents around SRH.
To a large degree, the same themes emerged from both locations, in terms of the awareness of body changes and puberty, the centrality of peer influences, and the value of education. These findings call for rigorous study of youth-directed programs and policies that meaningfully involve key influential adults identified by vulnerable young adolescents and utilize the specific places young adolescents, themselves, voice as being critical settings for obtaining information on SRH issues.
Lee et al. (2017), Conflict and Health, 11(Suppl 1):30