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The Impact of Rites of Passage and Cultural Practices on Adolescents’ and Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in East and Southern Africa

UNFPA-ESARO contracted with an independent consultant to review the existing literature relating to adolescent rites of passage and initiation ceremonies in four countries in Southern Africa (Malawi, Eswatini, South Africa and Zambia), to assess the impacts of these rites on young people in those countries, and propose alternatives for those found to be harmful physically, socially and/or emotionally.

UNFPA-ESARO chose to focus on these countries because they are implementing countries of its Safeguard Young People (SYP) Programme. This Programme was developed in 2013 to scale up comprehensive interventions in East and Southern Africa (ESA) for young people ages 10 to 24 to protect themselves from STIs (including HIV), early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, early marriage, gender-based violence, and harmful cultural practices; while promoting gender-equitable norms.

These countries, as part of their participation in SYP, have undertaken reviews of their rites of passage, and in some cases have begun implementing programmatic and policy changes . This document is a review of the existing literature relating to adolescent rites of passage in these four priority countries .