Adolescent-led sexual and reproductive health and rights research: qualitative evaluation of an innovative participatory action research project in Senegal
Participatory approaches are increasingly popular in public health, but remain little used to address adolescent health issues. However, adolescent participation in research has enormous potential for identifying solutions to health issues that concern them. In Senegal, a youth-led participatory action research project was implemented to evaluate the potential of the approach to address adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. A qualitative evaluation was conducted in four Senegalese communities, where teams of adolescents were trained to conduct a research project and identify solutions relevant for their communities. Observations and interviews were carried out during results dissemination meetings in each of the communities. Based on participatory action research principles and expected adolescent participation outcomes, the evaluation of the project demonstrated the potential of the approach to identify relevant solutions, while promoting positive and meaningful adolescent participation. Despite some difficulties, such as community resistance, the youth researchers were able to successfully complete their research project, while developing their confidence and self-esteem. The adolescents were convinced that they could act as agents of positive social change. This project has shown that it is possible and relevant to involve adolescents in research projects, and that this approach has significant potential in global health.