FIJI – Changing climates, compounding challenges: a participatory study on how disasters affect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in Fiji

by Nabreesa Murphy, Tamani Rarama, Alanieta Atama, Ilaisa Kauyaca, Kelera Batibasaga, Peter Azzopard, Kathryn J Bowen, Meghan A Bohren

BMJ Global Health Volume 8 – Supplement 3 – Climate Crisis and Health


Pacific youth are at the forefront of the climate crisis, which has important implications for their health and rights. Youth in Fiji currently bear a disproportionate burden of poor experiences and outcomes related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). There is limited information about how the increasing climate impacts may affect their SRHR, and what the implications may be for climate action and disaster risk reduction. We aimed to explore the experiences of 21 Fijian youth in fulfilling their SRHR when living through multiple natural hazards. We conducted 2 workshops and 18 individual semi-structured interviews using visual and storytelling methods. Irrespective of the type of hazard or context of disasters, participants identified limited agency as the main challenge that increased SRHR risks. Through reflexive thematic analysis, we identified four themes centred around ‘youth SRHR agency’; (1) information and knowledge, (2) community and belonging, (3) needs and resources, and (4) collective risks. These themes encompassed multiple factors that limited youth agency and increased their SRHR risks. Participants highlighted how existing challenges to their SRHR, such as access to SRHR information being controlled by community gatekeepers, and discrimination of sexual and gender diverse youth, were exacerbated in disasters. In disaster contexts, immediate priorities such as water, food and financial insecurity increased risks of transactional early marriage and transactional sex to access these resources. Daily SRHR risks related to normalisation of sexual and gender-based violence and taboos limited youth agency and influenced their perceptions of disasters and SRHR risks. Findings offer important insights into factors that limited youth SRHR agency before, during and after disasters. We underscore the urgency for addressing existing social and health inequities in climate and disaster governance. We highlight four key implications for reducing youth SRHR risks through whole-of-society approaches at multiple (sociocultural, institutional, governance) levels.