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In Papua New Guinea, family planning discussions are often reserved for married couples. Most information is shared in antenatal clinics, encouraging couples to space out pregnancies for prevention of common pregnancy and childbirth complications. 

But for many young people, this information comes too late. 

The Spotlight Initiative in Papua New Guinea is working with youth leaders and networks to improve adolescent’s access sexual and reproductive health information and services. In partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), UNFPA hosted a National Youth Conference on family planning, inviting youth networks from across the country to come together and discuss ways to overcome barriers to family planning for young people in PNG. 

Also presenting at the Regional Youth Conference was the National Youth Development Authority, which spoke on the technical requirements for establishing recognised youth networks. The National Department of Health presented on the National Youth and Adolescents Health Policy.

Attending the conference was the East New Britain branch of the Family Health Association. Peer-educator Primrose works with the FHA team to conduct sessions in schools and markets where teenagers can speak about issues of family planning and healthy relationships with people closer to their own age, an approach that Primrose says has been successful to changing the narrative. 

“When we come and speak with these youths, we are speaking their same language”, she said. A nurse by trade, she now leads a team of peer-educators who are not only raising awareness, but actively driving young people in East New Britain towards the Family Health Association, where they can also receive vaccinations, for example for cervical cancer, and be treated and receive psychosocial support for injuries from gender-based violence. 

Other groups attending included Sanap Wantaim (UN Women), Salvation Army, and youth participants from Morobe.

The two-day event in Port Moresby is just one activity in a much broader conversation on family planning in Papua New Guinea. While many youth networks are actively promoting sexual and reproductive health information and services, accessibility remains limited outside urban centres and education needs to be consistent. 

The Spotlight Initiative continues to work with key partners, including the National Department of Health, Department of Education, and non-government organisations like the IPPF to advocate for sexual and reproductive health services  in Papua New Guinea.