IN MEMORIAM – A literature review by the RAISE Initiative in honour of the work of Jennifer Schlecht

PHOTO: New York Times, 7 November 2019 

RAISE writes: “We at RAISE are devastated by the tragic death of our friend and former colleague, Jennifer Schlecht, whose work to ensure women and girls in humanitarian settings had access to good quality SRH services will be carried on. In Jenn’s honor, we are focusing this week’s literature review on a selection of articles that she co-authored over the years.”      RAISE Initiative, 15 November 2019          

The following is the abstract of one of those articles:

Prioritizingprogramming to address the needs and risks of very young adolescents: a summaryof findings across three humanitarian settings

by Jennifer Schlecht, Catherine Lee, Brad Kerner, MeghanGreeley & Courtland Robinson

Conflictand Health 2017 November;11(31) Supplement 1 DOI: 10.1186/s13031-017-0126-9 (Open access)

Background: Between 2013 and 2014, a series ofqualitative and quantitative research efforts were undertaken in three conflict-affectedcommunities (Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Somali refugees inKobe Refugee camp Ethiopia, and migrant communities from Myanmar settled in TakProvince, Thailand) that sought to understand the lived experiences of veryyoung adolescents during emergencies. A research consortium that included theWomen’s Refugee Commission, Johns Hopkins University, American University inBeirut, International Medical Corps in Ethiopia, Save the Children in Lebanonand the Adolescent Reproductive Health Network in Thailand convened aroundthese activities.

Methods: The core research initiative, “Sexualand Reproductive Health Needs and Risks of Very Young Adolescents inHumanitarian Contexts” involved three phases of research: 1) A program needsassessment completed with key informants working on adolescent sexual andreproductive health in each context 2) qualitative research, that incorporatedparticipatory approaches, with adolescents 10–16 years of age, and adults inthe community in all three settings, and 3) A household survey with 10–14year-olds in Ethiopia and Thailand. An additional phase of research was addedin Lebanon and Ethiopia, to further explore the issue of child marriage, whichwas a prominent experience, identified within the core research initiative onvery young adolescents.

Results: This research supplement, exploringthe experiences during early adolescence, highlighted the crucial role ofeducation, prominent experiences of insecurity, existing knowledge on bodychange and fertility, peer and family relationships among this age group, aswell as concerns around child marriage (Lebanon and Ethiopia), child labor (Thailand),and gender roles.

Conclusion: Given the findings presented withinthis supplement, there are broad implications for work with very youngadolescents by humanitarian actors in the settings where research wasundertaken, and potentially, more broadly. Programs that promote health andwell-being during early adolescence are critically needed in settings ofconflict and displacement, and coordination among the diverse range of actorsinvolved in such programming will be essential. Additionally, SRH programs foradolescents (10–14 years of age) in emergencies should include, at minimum,sensitive care for survivors of sexual violence, menstrual hygiene management,life skills, and fertility education. Humanitarian programs can better engagewith parents, teachers, and community leaders as partners in the developmentand implementation of programs. Finally, fundamental rights to protection andeducation for all adolescents must be upheld.