The HCDExchange Youth Leadership Hub (YLH) is a cohort of seven youth HCD+ASRH leaders from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia who offer insight on young people’s lives and experiences, lead meaningful youth engagement efforts, and demonstrate youth leadership across HCDExchange’s work. The YLH launched individual learning projects as capstones in October last year as capstones to complete their tenure with the Hub.
Each Associate selected a topic or challenge that is meaningful to them, and have developed and implemented a project with a small grant from the HCDExchange. From a toolkit focused on how to better communicate the value of HCD to youth, to the development of a Comprehensive Sexuality Program, to a new platform where young people can discuss post-sex fears - these projects cover topics and themes that matter to young people, and how HCD can play a role in creating high quality solutions.
Join us for an exhibition of these projects, on March 30th, where YLH Associates will present their final projects and learnings in an interactive session!
Romulus Gbota is the Francophone & Communications Associate at HCDExchange. Romulus is originally from Benin and has an undergraduate degree in English Linguistics from the University of Abomey Calavi. Prior to HCDExchange, he served as the Digital Marketing and Community Management Intern at Etrilabs-Benin, an NGO and tech hub focused on solving the unemployment problem in Benin. He also worked on an internal project that gave young people digital training skills at Etrilabs-Benin.
Romulus volunteers with the Beninese Association for Family Promotion (ABPF), a member association of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation), where he is an intern. As an activist for sexual and reproductive health rights, he promotes and makes family planning methods accessible to all social strata in Benin. He raises awareness about the importance of birth spacing and the merits of family planning.
For his individual learning project, Romulus focused on strengthening technical support for Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) in Benin’s secondary schools, through comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is one of the key interventions unanimously recognized as effective in adolescent sexual and reproductive health. With this conviction, Romulus set out to work towards providing a solution for adequate CSE implementation. Romulus’ project leverages human-centred design (HCD) to put young people at the centre of the evaluation of the existing CSE solutions.
This project will advance learning in the field of AYSRH through the use of HCD. The HCD approach will allow adolescents and youth to decide how to receive information, thus debunking some of the previous practices of deciding the fate of youth without their input.
Meru Vashisht is the Quality and Standards Associate at HCDExchange. She is a human-centred designer, writer and changemaker. As a Design Strategist at TinkerLabs, she works at the intersection of gender and youth, deriving insights and design directions from qualitative research conducted in complex social challenges.
She has used HCD towards the larger goal of gender equality while working across sectors like sexual health, migration, women entrepreneurship, employment generation, livelihood and domestic abuse. She also actively contributes towards taking HCD to adolescents and youth. She also spends her time volunteering, writing, designing and campaigning for feminist causes.
Meru’s project is dubbed Not So Sure. This project was developed with the aim of addressing young Indian women’s fear, shame and anxiety around sexual experiences. Young people often have emotions of fear, shame and anxiety surrounding sexual experiences. These may be fears before a planned sexual experience, during a sexual experience and even just after a sexual experience. Extreme negative emotions may often lead to a state of panic which not only affects the well-being of the young person but may also lead to regrettable actions.
The Not So Sure project is unique in its target outcome in that; it prevents regrettable actions - actions that can be decided by the young woman herself. Moreover, this project will uncover the fears that need to be addressed but will also provide new target outcomes for the field of HCD+ASRH which often plateaus on contraceptive uptake and knowledge levels.
Himanshu Kumar is the Program Management and M&E Associate at HCDExchange. He is a young theater professional from Jharkhand, India and has a Certificate in Soft Skills and Management from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai. He is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in Journalism and Mass communication from Ranchi University, Ranchi.
He has worked with USAID, ABT Associates and Plan India as a Drama Activity Consultant. At Plan India, he used theatre to teach about contraception, safe sex practices and gender equality. He also worked as the Youth Accountability Advocate with Restless Development India where he focused on SDG 5; Gender Based Violence. He served on the first HCDExchange Youth Leadership Hub as an Event and Convening Associate.
How can practitioners better communicate HCD material to young audiences within the HCD+ASRH field of practice? Himanshu set out to create a youth-friendly communication material on human-centred design (HCD). In this project, Himanshu is creating story based contents explaining HCD as an approach/theory. The rationale is to make the content youth friendly and easy to understand, in order to easily promote HCD resources and materials among youth. Himanshu has made use of the story based approach with real examples in order to make the contents very simple and engaging.
Heran Birhanu is the Adolescent Insights Associate at HCDexchange. She is a student, volunteer and young leader from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is currently a final year student at the Addis Ababa University, School of Law. Heran serves as a member, volunteer and leader in various organisations and initiatives in the gender equality and reproductive health and rights space.
In her most prominent role, Heran is a Young Designer for Smart Start at PSI Ethiopia. In addition to contributing to Smart Start and Economic Empowerment programs, she has also participated in the review of the Meaningful Youth Engagement Strategy as well as the review of the Mentorship.Program Strategy at PSI Ethiopia. She helped plan and moderate the first ever Young Designers’ Conference.
In addition to PSI Ethiopia, Heran also works as an Operations and Administrative Head for Siqqee Scholars, a student initiative that is working to alleviate SRHR related problems and their effects on young women’s educational journeys. In this role, she has participated in the design, planning and implementation of Pad Paradise Program, through which Siqqee Scholars has provided sanitary pads and SRHR awareness training to over 700 female students.
For the individual learning project, Heran focused on understanding the SRHR Needs of Young Women in Addis Ababa University. The aim for this project is to learn the sexual reproductive health needs of female university students in Addis Ababa University. It identifies currently available services at university level as well as gaps therewithin. The final output will be an insights deck with needs and possible interventions identified.
This project will not only identify the SRH needs of young women in universities, the fact that it uses HCD will encourage user centric programming and other such interventions in the SRH sphere. It will also help initiatives working within universities including Siqqee Scholars to redirect their efforts in line with the needs of students.
Eden Befekadu is the Youth Integration Associate at HCDExchange. She currently works as the Young Designer at PSI/Ethiopia and also works on A360’s Roadmap for Integrating Smart Start in Ethiopia (RISE) program. Smart Start responds to married adolescent rural girls’ and their husbands’ desire to achieve their family’s financial goals by positioning contraception as a tool to achieve their self-defined goals for their families and lives. Her role includes co-designing the program with adults from diverse backgrounds, working on policy advocacy to ensure AYSRH rights and representing or being the voice of adolescent girls.
Eden also loves to volunteer. She recently joined the Country Coordinating Team for Ethiopia as Partnerships and Communication Director for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning. She served as the Design Associate at HCDExchange in the first cohort of the Youth Leadership Hub. Eden is a Business Administration student at Western University college which is affiliated with Lincoln University, Oakland, California (Class of 2021).