USAID Supported ARFH-ICHSSA 2 Project Launches Virtual Space and Tech4AYP to Provide Adolescents and Young Persons With Digital Health Information and Thriving Hi-Tech Skills

June 2024: The Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) implementing the Integrated Child Health and Social Services Award (ICHSSA-2) with support from U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) launched an initiative to leverage innovative technology to reach young people with accurate health information where they are. The new initiative named VibeSquare- is a digital and safe space for Adolescents and Young Persons to access quality, concise and accurate HIV/TB, Sexual and Reproductive health and other relevant health messaging information. With VibeSquare, USAID and ARFH intends to address the persistent gaps in the lack of structured sexual health and HIV messaging and interventions across social media platforms.

Available data shows that over 32 million Nigerians are reported to be active users of social media, with youth making up a significant proportion of this number. Thus, prioritizing these spaces as a compliment of existing health systems is an on-going efforts to increase program reach among Adolescents and Young Persons, and to use this space to facilitate health promotion, HIV testing and case-finding, and drive access to other health services in a dignified and confidential manner.

Speaking during the launch, the Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development (MYSD), Mrs Abiola Osifowokan lauded ARFH for creating a safe space for Adolescents online to connect with each other while building their resilience and promoting access to prevention messages. She urged the Adolescents to use the platform in a positive manner and sustain it to achieve the desired goals.

In her keynote address, the ICHSSA-2 Agreement Officer Representative and USAID OVC Program Manager, Mrs Doreen Magaji admonished all the adolescents to be actively involved by communicating positively to their peers about the space.

“The platform is created with you, meaning you should own, use and sustain it” Mrs Magaji said.

Giving an insight into the ICHSSA-2 project, the Chief of Party, Dr. Felix Iwuala noted the 4 cardinal objectives of the project while stating that VibeSquare will provide accurate mapping for Adolescents to get access to nearest service providers. It is positioned to increase HIV case finding and access to Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health plus Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) services which ARFH has a comparative advantage. Dr. Iwuala also assured the adolescents that no one will be left behind regardless of their gender and disability. “We will also train young people on various in-demand digital skills such as cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, Web development, UI/UX, Graphics design among others,” he stated.

On her part, the ICHSSA-2 Deputy Chief of Party, Mrs. Esther Brodrick-Shehu introduced the 44 VibeSquare Ambassadors pooled from 11 project LGAs across Lagos State. She stated that VibeSquare affords adolescent to network, pass on accurate information and also have access to information on health-related issues at the click of a button.

In his goodwill message, the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) represented by LASUBEB Permanent Board Member Mr. Babatunde Adewale congratulated ARFH for setting up the virtual space platform for peer support on HIV/AIDS. He expressed optimism that the platform will impact positively the lives of adolescent and vulnerable children. Goodwill messages were also delivered by the Executive Directors of partner Community Based Organizations- Mrs Abimbola Ojosipe, Chamagne Foundation and Mr Jones Ihemenam, Rhoda Haven Network; and Technical Director of USAID funded DAI YPE4AH.

The ICHSSA-2 Knowledge and Communications Officer, Mr Gbadegesin Alawode while speaking gave an overview of the VibeSquare platform setup and roadmap, driven by evidence from findings and preference of the Adolescents themselves. “Technology has transformed our lives, from the way we live and access information, exposing many to misinformation. We must harness the power of innovative technology to meet the needs of young people in a way that is engaging and inclusive” Mr. Alawode said.

In the same vein, ARFH unveiled Tech4AYP, a digital skills empowerment initiative to up-skill Adolescents and young people with latest technology skills for the future of work. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, essential technology skills are not just an advantage, they’re a necessity, including for disadvantaged adolescents and young people. To the applause and enthusiasm of the Adolescents, the Tech4AYP digital skills initiative was unveiled by the Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development (MYSD), Mrs Abiola Osifowokan.

Representatives of the VibeSquare Ambassadors, Yusuf Oluwatobi and Carrington Oziegbe expressed their heartfelt gratitude to USAID for the encouragement and continuous support to the OVC communities and for adolescent living with HIV.

Delivering the vote of thanks, the ICHSSA-2 Director of Finance and Operations, Mr Olugbenga Ayeni appreciated all the participants ranging from the dignitaries invited from USAID, Government, NGOs, CBOs, ICHSSA-2 Project Management Team and staff.

Written by Gbadegesin Alawode, ICHSSA-2 Knowledge Management and Communications Officer.

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