Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Report
Title Overview: Building Capacity to Conduct Research on Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health in Egypt
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d320/b4f4ee3454870056f02425eb4501ad33857a.pdf#page=7
Every once in a while Egyptian mass media highlights a sensational
issue related to youth sexual and reproductive health
(SRH) and calls for immediate action from policymakers. The
latter are often caught in the cross fire and turn to researchers
for answers to questions such as, “Can those figures be true?”
“Which groups are most likely to suffer from those problems?”
“What are the underlying causes?” “Are there any solutions
that have proven effective?” Unfortunately, researchers rarely
have answers to these questions, because research tackling
youth SRH issues in Egypt barely exists.
Despite worldwide recognition of the importance of youth
SRH as an integral component of overall health and wellbeing,
research in this arena remains sparse in Egypt. Young
people 10–29 years of age account for more than 40 percent
of the country’s population (Population Council 2011). Despite
the growing numbers of adolescents and youth in Egypt and
their potential exposure to high-risk behaviors, little is known
about their knowledge or practices in relation to SRH. A
Pubmed search showed that from 1994 to 2010, only 93 studies
on sexual health in Egypt were published in the peer-reviewed
literature. In contrast, 763 Egyptian studies had been
published in other areas of health, such as hepatitis, during
the same time period.
The lack of research on youth SRH is largely due to social
and cultural norms wherein topics related to sexuality are
considered private matters that should not be discussed in
public (Parker 2009). This culture of silence has impacted
researchers, potential research participants, and government
authorities. Many researchers and their academic supervisors
are not aware of salient issues in youth SRH and hence
do not consider it a research priority. Others may refrain from
studying certain topics or behaviors that conflict with their own
personal values. Some researchers fear being stigmatized
by colleagues for studying certain topics (e.g., homosexuality),
while fear of negative reactions by research participants
or communities may deter other researchers from asking
sensitive questions (Al-Shdayfat and Green 2011). The above
factors have not only had a negative impact on researchers
but have also deterred government authorities and academic
research committees from granting permits to enable
researchers to conduct fieldwork on such topics. There is
widespread belief that talking openly about sex might encourage
unmarried youth to engage in premarital sexual relations
(DeJong and El-Khoury 2006). Likewise, many donor agencies
have opted to stay away from studying youth SRH, perhaps due to restrictions posed by their own governments or to avoid
conflict with local authorities.
Given that one in five Egyptians (or nearly 16 million
people) are between the ages of 15 and 24, the need to
study youth SRH cannot be overemphasized (United Nations
Population Division 2011). This age group, referred to
as “youth,” is at the critical stage where they undergo many
biological, psychological, and social changes (Roudi-Fahimi
and El Feki 2011). The extent to which this large group of
young people will become healthy and productive members
of society depends on how well the Egyptian government and
civil society invest in social, economic, and political institutions
that meet the current needs of young people (Assaad
and Roudi-Fahimi 2007).
As in many parts of the world, youth in Egypt face a
number of SRH risks. As a result of recent socioeconomic
developments, young men and women stay in school longer
and delay marriage. During this relatively long transitional
period between childhood and adulthood, young people
may have sexual relationships before marriage, putting
them at risk of stigmatization, sexually transmitted infections,
unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and more
(Roudi-Fahimi and El Feki 2011). At the other end of the
spectrum are girls who are still marrying at a young age. The
2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt has shown that 42
percent of married women aged 18–24 in rural Upper Egypt
were married before age 18 (Population Council 2011). Early
marriage poses significant risks to the health and well-being
of young women, including complications of early pregnancy,
gender-based violence, and sexually transmitted infections,
especially if these girls are married to men who are much
older than they are (Bruce 2003).
In addition to these two groups, millions of young men and
women have unanswered questions and unresolved problems
related to their sexual and reproductive health. Some want to
know such things as what changes to expect in their bodies
during puberty, or if masturbation will make them infertile, or
if the hymen can break while playing sports (Wahba 2011).
These and many other questions are disturbing for young
people, but they often go unanswered because of lack of access
to reliable sources of reproductive health (RH) information
and services.
As in every field, research plays a cardinal role in identifying
and overcoming social and economic disparities and health
system inadequacies that prevent us from reaching the highest
attainable standard of SRH for all (Global Forum for Health
Research and World Health Organization 2007). This lack of
sound, reliable information and the scarcity of scientific knowledge
relevant to youth SRH in Egypt only exacerbate the challenges
in addressing those issues and their implications for
the health and well-being of youth and the society as a whole.
It is of utmost importance to have an accurate database upon
which appropriate policies and interventions pertaining to
youth SRH can be formulated. Understanding young people’s
perspectives and needs is key to informing legislation, policy,
and programs (DeJong and El-Khoury 2006).

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