Evaluating VSO Zambia's TALK II Project Impact on Adolescent Sexual Health and Rights
Updated: Jun 2
A TALK II listening group. The Talking Book's built-in speaker works for groups of about 20.
An external evaluation shows positive outcomes for TALK II and Talking Books — supporting SRHR knowledge for youth and their families
In 2020, Amplio partnered with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and Arm on VSO Zambia's 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 to engage and inform young people and their families by sharing 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.
The need for SRHR education
In Zambia, young people face barriers to accessing SRHR education and family planning services and resources. Traditionally, talking about sexual 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.
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 autonomy for adolescent girls.
For the TALK II project, 100 volunteers were trained to facilitate Talking Book learning and discussion groups and to teach participants how to use the technology.
VSO Zambia's TALK II community volunteers in Samfya District
VSO’s Talking Book content covered 15 topics, from contraceptives to pregnancy to STIs. Volunteers played Talking Book messages aloud and facilitated discussions. Young people also had the opportunity to take the devices home to listen to the messages on their own or with their families, reaching an even wider audience and encouraging intergenerational discussion and understanding.
Evaluation results—positive outcomes in 4 key areas
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 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 district, we had serious cultural beliefs that restricted youth and parents from discussing reproductive health. With Talking Books, parents now have accurate information to support adolescents in their health needs.” — a local leader, Chishi Island, Samfya District
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 of SRHR issues that affect young people.
Outcome 2: Improved quality/relevance/consistent SRHR messaging
With Talking Book devices, youth and their families were able to access accurate SRHR and COVID-19 information. Over 97% of participants reported the listening groups were useful and that they were satisfied with the program. Adolescents said the Talking Book messages made them feel more informed about making 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, questions, and concerns in response to SRHR topics.
Outcome 4: Improved engagement through technology
The use of technology, including Talking Books, as well as Facebook and Whatsapp groups for youth who had access to a connected device, increased the engagement of adolescents and their families. Peer educators reported that technology provided young people with a sense of purpose and entertainment, as well as knowledge.
A community listening group (left) and TALK II volunteer (right). Photos: VSO Zambia and PRIM Zambia
“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 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 TALK II project was shown to be successful, resulting in a high rate of engagement through Talking Books. With access to equitable technology and relevant information in their local language, adolescents and families felt more informed and empowered about SRHR decision making, STI/HIV issues, adolescent needs, and intergenerational communication.
Download the full report here: