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Guidance Note - Youth and Social Sectors

Guidance Note


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 and rights 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.

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 realise their full potential as healthy and democratic citizens.

Access to healthis 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 behaviour. This leaves young people with significant sexual and reproductive health challenges, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), early/unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriages and gender-based violence (GBV). Young people should consequently be regarded as a key target group for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services such as SRHR education, family planning services, prevention and protection against sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS).

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 many young people living in poor stable and fragile countries still face constraints related to access to quality and relevant education/training. Moreover, 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 an environment conducive 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 ToC is intended to provide inspiration, and it is a supplement to the development of the sector specific ToC and not a stand-alone tool, nor is it a by youth tool. It is intended for inspiration in the youth situational analysisand understanding of the background against which youth mainstreaming and youth engagement should be formulated, planned and implemented. See also aid management guidelines: Guidelines for Country Strategic Frameworks, Programmes and Projects.

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 (Youthhood - A Period of Personal and Social Development) 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 marginalised 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 of 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 take the need for confidentiality into account.


  • Lack of rights, 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 people in relation to social sector programmes is a supplement to the general thematic and contextual analysis and appraisals, cf. Annex 1: Context Analysis in the Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, AMG.


Contextual assessment: youth


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 services, etc.)?


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

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


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

Contextual assessment: environment


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 are less likely to be provided with appropriate and youth friendly services due to gender, social or educational conditions, disability etc.?


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, e.g. women and girls, people in rural areas, people living with disabilities, people affected by conflict, migrants, sexual minorities and youth are disproportionately represented among the persons left behind in development.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.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of youth who may require special attention in relation to social sector engagement.



Marginalised/victimised 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, marginalised 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 women living in fragile and conflict-affected settings


  • 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 dropouts (e.g. teenage girls who drop out due to pregnancies or inadequate sanitary conditions)
  • Youth living in disadvantaged settings (slums, refugee camps, marginalised rural areas)
  • Youth belonging to a national or ethnic minority, including youth with linguistic adaption problems



In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor at [email protected]