Divas: A Teen-Centric Approach to Sexual Health Services
In Zambia, IDEO.org partnered with Marie Stopes International and the Hewlett Foundation to design a multi-touchpoint service that helps teen girls in urban Lusaka access the contraception they need to to take control of their bodies and their futures.
In Zambia, more than one-third of women give birth by age 18, limiting their ability to finish school, start careers, and become mothers on their own terms. Most widely available reproductive health services are targeted at adults—with a focus on marketing contraceptives and reproductive health information to women who are married or have already started families—neglecting the needs of teenage girls.
Through IDEO.org's immersive field research, it became clear that girls don't often feel a sense of control over their reproductive health, with the decision to use a condom most often determined by their male partner. And like most teenagers, their sexual decisions aren't always premeditated, making planning a challenge. We also found that information about long-term, female-controlled methods of birth control is hard to come by, leading girls to rely on ill-informed peers or their partners for information about their own reproductive health.
As we began to prototype new types of services that would appeal to the girls we met in Lusaka, it became clear that our design must focus on making the topic of contraception to feel and sound more like the conversations teens are already having with their friends, and helping girls understand the link between long-term contraceptives and their future goals.
At the Diva Centres, girls do their nails while having informal conversations about boys and sex. They hang out with friends, learn about contraception in their own terms from trained peers, and, when they're ready, receive counseling and access to a variety of short and long-term birth control in a safe and judgment-free environment from a trained professional. The Centres are centered around a vibrant teen-only space where girls can come together informally—no appointment needed. These spaces are supported by a teen-focused brand (The Divine Divas), which helps girls connect long-term contraceptives with their future aspirations. The Centres are promoted and staffed by trained peers—young women who personify the Diva brand and serve as a safe and trusted resource for girls to confide in.
Despite being one of the leading providers of contraception and family planning services in the country, Marie Stopes Zambia saw almost no teenage patients in their traditional clinics when they began to work with IDEO.org in 2014. Since then, we've worked with MSZ to launch three Diva Centres around Lusaka, and serving more than 5,100 girls—a staggering 82% of whom have adopted some form of birth control, most for the first time.
Following this initial success, Marie Stopes Zambia plans to build a total of ten Diva Centres by 2017 and adapt the urban Diva Center model to serve teens in more rural areas of the country.
We chose this because of the innovative way they are breaking down the barrier between the girls they serve, and the information they need by finding an activity that’s safe and approachable, like getting your nails done.
This was a full system that spoke to a specific context and felt very human-centered. The problem is enormous, but the solution felt very intimate.
We loved nail polish as gateway drug to talk about sex, and thought the project was well-executed in many media