Family Planning and the “Voice of Youth” in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Access and Quality of Family Planning Services II Project (AcQual) works in the DRC to improve family planning.
The seven finalists from Kinshasa and Kongo Central (from left to right: Landry Yala, Farley Ngabu, Gracian Intamba, Rebecca Sivis, Rebecca Mampuya, Medi Nsonika, Lawisa Labakh) Credit: PBB (Pitshou Budiongo Business)

CCP is generating demand among youth for family planning methods and services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by helping give voice to young people who have stories to tell and advice to share with their peers, their parents and health providers.

Until now, young people in the DRC have been frustrated with a lack of access to family planning information. Social disapproval of premarital sexual activity and taboos about discussing sexuality with youth affect their knowledge of, and access to, sexual and reproductive health services, making them more vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Research shows that youth are not always welcome in health centers and rely on pharmacists, street drug vendors and rumors to guide their reproductive health choices.

The prevalence of these attitudes in DRC among providers and parents means that young people do not have willing sources of information on reproductive health – and it may be having an impact on their behaviors. For example, among young women in DRC, the median age at first intercourse 16 years (in Kongo Central) or 17 years (in Kinshasa), but the median age for first contraceptive use is 20. The gap between when youth begin having sex and when they start to use contraception is a critical area to be addressed. (Source PMA2020/Kinshasa 2016R-5; PMA2020/Kongo Central 2016 R-2).

With this in mind, CCP designed an exciting new song contest to recruit fresh young voices to create new adolescent reproductive health messages that will motivate their peers to seek out family planning services. Using inspiration from the popularity of shows like America’s Got Talent, the Mongongo ya Bilenge (“the Voice of Youth”) contest is designed to identify young singer/songwriters who can communicate with their peers about sexual and reproductive health and ultimately to increase intention among youth to adopt a modern contraceptive method. The contest was advertised on radio, TV and social media in collaboration with international music star Ferré Gola.

Youth between the ages of 18-24 submitted their audition video or audio file to the organizers via WhatsApp. Out of over 200 submissions, seven finalists from Kinshasa and Kongo Central were selected by judges and invited to participate in a weeklong ‘maquis’ or camp to arrange their songs to music, where they were coached by some of the greatest lyricists and music producers from the DRC, including Pascal Poba, Alfred Nzimba and Zola Tempo.

During the televised finale, each finalist performed his or her song with professional musicians and chorus. A jury, which included a representative from the National Adolescent Reproductive Health Program and Ferré Gola, judged the competition and selected the winner: Gracian Intamba, a 24 year-old from Kinshasa with a degree in English and Business. After the show, Gracian and Ferré headed to the studio to mix the final song and produce the accompanying music video. The entire process was documented on video, which will be broadcast on national television channels as well as Trace TV, along with the final music video. The song will also be broadcast on national radio.

Contest winner Gracian Intamba performs his song during the televised finale Credit: PBB (Pitshou Budiongo Business)

Winning Song: Zala Ekenge Elenge (Youth be Careful) by Gracian Intamba

(translated from Lingala to French to English)

Young guys, be careful
Today you’re lucky
But tomorrow you’ll understand that it was all a sham
It comes and goes like fog that disappears at sunrise

Do not make a mistake
Your future is written today
To avoid crying tomorrow
One must learn to be careful
One must learn to be careful (? ×)
Getting pregnant is good
But is this the right time?
Becoming a dad is good
But do you have everything you need to provide for your family?

Someone who really loves you
Will never let you fall into the flames
True love does not tolerate impatience
Do not waste your future on a simple pleasure
Make your own arrangements
The one who really loves you
Will not want to make you fat with challenges
Abstain or protect
It is for those who can wait
Learn to be careful

Learn to be careful
Learn to be careful
Many believe they have lost everything
Because of a false start
But there are contraceptives
So it’s never too late

Happiness can not be summed up in a bit of flirtation
Marriage is not fake

My brothers and sisters happiness has a secret
Success comes through reflection
What you want to win depends on your involvement in what you do
Oh ah
Learn to be careful

Your future is being built today
Don’t fool yourself
Your future is built today
Be careful students
The one who loves you, will not want you to spoil your studies
Be careful young girl
Be careful young boy

Health centers, help us by giving us advice
Because we are your children
My little sister just went there for advice on unwanted pregnancy
But she was poorly welcomed
It is your duty to show us the right path
Such as abstinence or contraception
To not spoil our future

The Mongongo ya bilenge contest is a complementary activity to the AcQual II project, a three-year family planning project to increase access and quality of family planning services in Kinshasa and Kongo Central. The project is led by Tulane University, in partnership with CCP and local partners Association pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ABEF), SANRU and Association Santé et Développement (ASD). AcQual II is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and an anonymous donor.

To see additional videos and photos from the contest, like the MYB Facebook page.

This post was written by Hannah Mills, Program Officer. Hannah is based at CCP’s headquarters office in Baltimore, MD and supports projects in DRC, Mali, Guinea and Senegal.

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