An external evaluation shows positive outcomes for VSO Zambia’s Adolescent TALK II project and Talking Books – supporting sexual and reproductive health knowledge for youth and their families.

In Zambia, Amplio partnered with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and Arm on the Adolescent TALK II project — a community-focused intervention to challenge existing taboos and empower young people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The program targeted girls and boys aged 10 to 19 in four wards of the Samfya District in the Luapula Province, an area of remote island communities. As part of a multi-layered approach, community volunteers and  peer educators used the Amplio Talking Book as a tool to share consistent, accurate, and relevant SRHR information. 

An external evaluation was conducted to gain a comprehensive understanding of the TALK II project, accomplishments, and use of Talking Books. Read the full report.

The need for SRHR education

In this region of Zambia, young people face barriers to accessing SRHR education and family planning services and resources. Traditionally, talking about sex health is taboo and SRHR issues are not openly discussed. Gender norms impact girls’ decision-making power and assertiveness about using contraceptives, which often leads to risky sexual behaviors. As a result, there is a high risk of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections including HIV.

The role of Talking Books

The TALK II project was developed to support community volunteers in delivering youth-friendly, culturally appropriate SRHR education and resources to adolescents and their families. Talking Books were introduced to equip young people with the knowledge to make informed decisions, be leaders on SRHR in their communities, and address the gender norms that are shown to be barriers to resource access and autonomy for adolescent girls. For the project, 100 volunteers were trained to facilitate Talking Book learning and discussion groups and to teach participants how to use the technology.

VSO’s Talking Book audio content covered 15 topics, from contraceptives to pregnancy to STIs. Volunteers played Talking Book messages aloud and facilitated discussion after. Young people also had the opportunity to take the devices home to listen to the messages on their own or with family members, reaching an even wider audience and encouraging family discussion. 

TALK II peer educators

Members of the TALK II project team.

The evaluation results

Conducted by PRIM Zambia, an external evaluation of the project showed that Talking Books were successful in supporting SRHR behavior change initiatives. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected through a combination of report reviews, focus groups, survey interviews, and key informant interviews. Adolescents, caregivers, volunteers, and local leaders were surveyed for feedback. The results are overwhelmingly positive.

“In this area, we had serious cultural beliefs that restricts the interaction between parents and children or discussing reproductive health issues…with information provided in families through Talking Books, parents have accurate information to support adolescents in their health needs.” — a local leader, Chishi Island

Outcome 1: Improved reach of messaging to adolescents and families

The initial goal was to reach 1,000 adolescents, and the TALK II project far exceeded that by reaching over 5,400 adolescents (2791 females and 2611 males) and 10,314 family members. Listeners completed 8,738 Talking Book messages — which is 2,286 hours of listening. Parents reported that because of the messages they listened to, they have increased their knowledge on SRHR issues that affect young people.

Outcome 2: Improved quality/relevance/consistent SRHR messaging

With Talking Book devices, adolescents and their families were able to receive accurate SRHR and COVID-19 information. Over 97% of participants reported that listening groups were useful and that they were satisfied with the program. Youth said the Talking Book messages made them feel more informed to make decisions.

Outcome 3: Improved SRH data collection and feedback

Adolescents, community members, and VSO volunteers were trained on how to use Talking Books and record their feedback. Because Talking Books collect usage data and user feedback, this allowed VSO to monitor message engagement and gain insights about community issues, concerns, and response to SRHR topics.

Outcome 4: Improved engagement through technology

The use of technology — Talking Books, as well as Facebook and Whatsapp groups for youth who had access to a connected device — increased engagement of adolescent and their families. Peer educators reported that the technology gave young people a sense of purpose and entertainment, as well as knowledge.

“It used to be very difficult for us to receive information on issues that concern us. Most of the time, we would receive conflicting information on the same topic. The Talking Book helped us to listen to the information we needed in a way that was easy to understand, follow, and use.”
— a TALK II participant, Kapata community

Overall, the project has shown to be successful with a high rate of engagement through Talking Books. With access to inclusive technology and relevant information, adolescents and families felt more informed and empowered about SRH decision making, SRH/HIV issues, adolescent needs, and intergenerational communication. Read the full report here. 

Partner With Amplio

For more information or to learn how you can include Talking Books in your project as part of a multi-layered approach, get in touch.

Amplio Network