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Digital self-care for improved access to family planning and reproductive health services among adolescents in Rwanda: preliminary findings from a pilot study of CyberRwanda


Adolescents experience significant barriers, including stigma and discrimination, to accessing voluntary family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services in Rwanda. Self-care interventions have been shown to reduce social barriers to FP/RH care, but little is known about the effectiveness of digital self-care for adolescents, particularly in low-resource settings. This paper presents findings from a pilot study of CyberRwanda, a digital self-care intervention providing comprehensive sexuality education and confidential online ordering of contraceptives for school-aged youth in Rwanda through a rights-based approach. A mixed-methods pilot study was conducted from November 2019 to February 2020 to assess feasibility, acceptability, and engagement and to inform a future impact evaluation. Surveys were administered to a random sample of 158 students aged 12-19 years in three secondary schools. In-depth interviews were conducted with students, parents, teachers, pharmacists, district-level administrators, and youth centre staff. Descriptive statistics were calculated and qualitative data were analyzed using a thematic coding approach. One hundred and fifty-eight surveys and 28 interviews were conducted. Results revealed high demand for CyberRwanda in schools. Students were interested in engaging with the program and found the FP/RH content relevant to their needs. However, few purchased contraceptive products through the online ordering system. There are preliminary indications that CyberRwanda may improve access to FP/RH information. An extended implementation period and further research are needed to measure the long-term impacts of the program and evaluate whether this digital self-care intervention can increase uptake of contraceptive methods and reduce adolescent pregnancy among school-aged youth.

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