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Youth & Social Sectors

Guidance Note

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The Danish strategy for international development policy and humanitarian action “The World 2030” states that it is “vital to engage the young people in order to raise the level of education and health, combat HIV/AIDS and limit population growth with respect for human rights, including through contraception and sexual and reproductive rights and health”.1

Compared to the past, more young people are completing primary school and surviving childhood diseases. However, to succeed in today’s competitive global economy, they must have access to age appropriate and youth friendly social services to stay healthy, protect themselves from sexual and reproductive health risks, and obtain the skills necessary for being productive and able to contribute to effectively to community and society.

Age appropriate and youth friendly services are based on a comprehensive understanding of young people’s specific needs, and how gender affects the realities of young people’s lives. The services are designed to deliver safe, affordable, accessible and essential care to youth.2

Investments in social services such as quality education and health – including sexual and reproductive health - are not only essential to enable young people to enjoy their rights but will also help young people realize their full potential as healthy and democratic citizens.3

Traditionally, Denmark has had a strong focus on ensuring equitable access to quality social services, especially within health and education. The focus on social services is less prominent in the current Strategy (The World 2030) of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the social sectors are still funded through Danida’s strategic NGO partners and multilateral organizations, e.g. through the Global Partnership for Education which receives annually DKK 300 million up to and including 2021.

Access to health4 is the focus of SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The focus of SDG3 is the entire population, but the youth population faces particular challenges that need to be considered to succeed with the SDG agenda. Having survived childhood diseases, young people confront health threats at a very vulnerable time, initiating sexual activity and entering the age of identity-seeking and risk-taking behavior. This leaves young people with significant sexual and reproductive health challenges, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), adolescent pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriages and gender-based violence (GBV). Young people should consequently be regarded a key target group for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services such as SRH education, family planning services, prevention and protection against sexual transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS).


The country programme in Uganda supports, the UNFPA to implement the “Women, Adolescents and Youth Rights and Empowerment Programme” which aims to empower women and youth in the northern Uganda to contribute to their own and their communities’ development through an integrated approach to gender equality, sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) and gender-based violence (GBV) services and socio-economic empowerment.

Youth constitute a priority of the programme, and the context analysis accounts for particular youth related issues such as teenage pregnancies, lack of knowledge of modern contraceptives, high-risk behaviour, etc. The programme targets the major bottlenecks on the demand side; the socio-cultural norms, religious values, financial constraints and gender inequality, as well as the supply side; the shortage in human resources and limited skills among service providers, stock-outs of SRHR and GBV commodities, limited community-based service outlets, and inadequate generation and use of data.


Access to education is the focus of SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all. At the global level, access to education has improved significantly in recent years, but young people still face constraints related to access to quality and relevant education/training. There is a need for investing in and further promoting skills related to critical thinking/problem-solving, technology, agriculture and management in order to raise the employability and entrepreneurship of graduates.

The delivery of age appropriate and youth friendly social services generally depends on supportive policies and a conducive environment for promotion of services, budget allocations, adequately trained service providers and a constant demand for services by young people.

Inspiration for a Theory of Change (ToC) on Social Sectors
The following figure illustrates some of the key features and causalities important for youth, which should be considered when developing a ToC and a results chain for a social sector engagement. As such, the ToC is intended to provide inspiration and supplement to the development of the sector specific ToC and is not a stand-alone tool, nor is it a by youth tool. It is for inspiration in the Youth Situational Analysis and understanding of the background against which youth mainstreaming and youth engagement should be formulated, planned and implemented. See also Aid Management Guidelines: Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, January 2018, p. 19.

Social figur

Youth Assessment Tools: Social Services
An important first step in mainstreaming youth specific issues into social sector programmes and development engagements is to assess the knowledge, attitude and practice in regard to social services among the targeted youth population and the extent to which the environment enables and/ or hinders their equitable access to social services.

The matrix below describes some of the common and overall hindering and enabling factors at different levels that may impact young people’s access to youth friendly services.


Hindering factors

Enabling factors


Young people are marginalized from youth friendly services by virtue of:

Young people are accessing youth friendly services as a result of:



  • Attitudes towards them, labelling and stereotyping youth as being irresponsible, inexperienced, rebellious, etc.
  • Laws, policies and budgets that do not encourage youth friendly services


  • Acknowledgement of their need for youth friendly services and ability to lead responsible lives


  • Laws, policies and budgets that encourage youth friendly services



  • Cultural and religious norms and parental authority affecting their ability to access education, healthcare and health-related information


  • Harmful customary practices and misconceptions, in particular in relation to sexual reproductive health                

  • Gender inequality


  • Interpersonal support and confidentiality from peers, family, colleagues and other stakeholders


  • Informed communities / persons combatting harmful customary practice.                


  • Gender equality



  • Costs of services


  • Long distances to services


  • Lack of information about services


  • Lack of youth friendly design of services


  • Lack of youth-friendly training of service providers                


    Specific for SRH services:


  • Concern about confidentiality and lack dedicated space for young people to access services


  • Consent requirements demanding parental, spousal or partner approval for certain reproductive health services.


  • Reduced costs of services for youth with limited financial means


  • Adequate distribution of services


  • Adequate information about services


  • Youth friendly design of services


  • Youth-friendly service providers



    Specific for SRH services:


  • Security of confidentiality and dedicated space for young people to access services


  • Consent requirements takes into account the need for confidentiality



  • Lack of knowledge, skills, motivation and/or means to access services


  • Knowledge, skills, motivation and means to make informed decisions, and cope with and manage own lives in a healthy and productive manner.

The following example of guiding questions for a contextual assessment of the realities of young peoplein relation to social sector programmes are a supplement to the general thematic and contextual analysis and appraisals cf. Annex 1: Context Analysis in the Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, AMG, January 2018.


Key conclusions


To what extent are young people knowledgeable of existing social services?



To what extent are young people able to analyse their own situation, and identify and express their needs for health/educational services?



Are young people properly equipped to access services (i.e. do the youth have skills to make

informed decisions, seek and demand for services, etc.)?



To what extent are young people accessing services within health and education?

  • Are there specific factors hindering young women in accessing services?



To what extent do young people believe that the provision of social services is appropriate and youth friendly?



Key conclusions


Is there a youth policy (or any other policy) with a framework for the provision of age

appropriate and youth friendly social services?



Do adults’ perceptions of youth influence the provision of age appropriate and youth friendly services?

  • Are there certain groups of youth who due to gender, social or educational conditions, disability etc. are less likely to be provided with appropriate and youth friendly services?



Which local/national youth friendly services exist?

  • Are service providers adequately trained?



What are the main formal/informal and social/cultural barriers excluding young people (or parts of the youth population) from accessing age appropriate and youth friendly services?


Across countries, different segments of the population, inter alia, women and girls, people in rural areas, people living with disabilities, migrants, sexual minorities, and youth are disproportionately represented among the persons left behind in development.5 The SDG principle of leaving-no-one behind demands that marginalised/victimised groups of young people are considered when designing thematic programmes and development engagements.

Following below is a non-exhaustive list of youth who may require special attention in relation to social sectors engagements.


Marginalized/victimized youth groups



  • Young victims of violence (including sexual violence)


  • Young parents (including young single parents/head of households)


  • Youth living in disadvantaged settings (slums, refugee camps, marginalized rural areas)

Reproductive health


  • Young people with different sexual orientation and/or gender identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth) or those questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity



  • Young people without access to secondary/tertiary education due to poverty (e.g. youth from disadvantaged families/communities) or geographical marginalisation (e.g. youth from remote rural/hilly areas, small islands)


  • Young people with learning difficulties (or other disabilities excluding or limiting their access to education)


  • Early school-leavers and school drop-outs (e.g. teenage girls who drop out due to pregnancies or inadequate sanitary conditions)


  • Youth living in disadvantaged settings (slums, refugee camps, marginalized rural areas)


  • Youth belonging to a national or ethnic minority, including youth with linguistic adaption problems

Further reading and inspiration on Social Sectors


UNFPA: The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future (2014) The State of the World Population Report discusses the enormous potential for economic growth and social development in countries with large youth populations, given the right investments in human and social capital for youth development are made. For a brief, read the fact sheet.


WHO: Adolescents: health risks and solutions. A homepage providing key facts on the health of adolescent (1019 years of age).


UN-DESA: Youth with Disability (2011).


Family Health International: Youth Participation Guide: Assessment, Planning, and Implementation (2008): The Youth Participation Guide seeks to increase the level of meaningful youth participation in reproductive health (RH) and HIV/AIDS programming at

an institutional and programmatic level. The guide hopes to foster individual and institutional commitment to involving youth in meaningful ways. While designed for working with youth RH and HIV projects, this guide can also be adapted for use in other types of youth development programs.


Advocates for Youth: The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People in Low and Middle Income Countries. A homepage providing key facts on the sexual reproductive health for young people.


US Department of Health and Human Services: A homepage presenting a game plan for engaging youth in promoting health and healthy lives; including Principles for Youth Engagement and Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches


UNESCO: Technical guidance on comprehensive sexuality education (includes life skills): International technical guidance on sexuality

education: an evidence-informed approach (2018).


WHO: Recommendations on adolescence sexual and reproductive health and rights (2018).


1 Danida, The World 2030 section 2.4 p. 7

2 Youth responsive characteristics explained in USAIDs PYD Measurement Toolkit (Annex F) p. 103.

3 The Case for Investing in Young People (UNFPA)

4 Young people living in developing counties experience the same sources of ill-health as the rest of the population, but their disease burden is often worsened by poverty and other forms of deprivation and exclusion. There is consequently a need to scale up preventive interventions enhancing young people’s physical and mental health and protect them from communicable as well as non-communicable diseases.

5 UNDP: What does it mean to leave no one behind?



Ministry of Foreign Affairs


2 Asiatisk Plads

DK-1448 Copenhagen K


Tel. +45 33 92 00 00


In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor, Thomas Rudebeck Eilertzen (