Intro from Male Contraceptive Initiative Executive Director Heather Vahdat :
Since joining Male Contraceptive Initiative (MCI) in 2018, one of my dreams was to establish a Youth Advisory Board (YAB). The seed of this idea was first planted when I was introduced to YTH, an organization that I now have the pleasure of calling close colleagues. I was immediately impressed by YTH’s deliberate and outward-facing commitment to youth. It occurred to me that the inclusion of youth perspectives in sexual and reproductive health research, programs, and policy should be a best practice for all organizations. In the case of MCI, I believe it is a critical practice given that today’s young men and their partners will be the first beneficiaries of non-hormonal, reversible, male contraceptive methods that are currently in development.
While I viewed establishing a YAB as a priority for MCI, I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would come to fruition so quickly. That accomplishment rests firmly in the hands of Kathryn Carpenter, our first summer Fellow from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Public Health. Kathryn immediately embraced the idea of a YAB and has been the driving force in making it a reality. Crossing paths with Tyrone and Connie seemed like confirmation from the Universe that the time was right and so here we are, proudly introducing MCI’s YAB to the world! Kathryn’s introductory blog post is provided below.
By Kathryn Carpenter, MCI Advocacy Strategist and Youth Advisory Board Chair
In August, Male Contraceptive Initiative (MCI) held our first Youth Advisory Board meeting with the three inaugural members: Connie Dean, Tyrone Fields, and Kathryn Carpenter.
MCI is expanding our efforts to increase awareness and advocacy for new methods of non-hormonal male contraception. The Youth Advisory Board offers an opportunity to extend our reach to younger populations, including those on college campuses. Because any potential male method is 10-15 years away, it’s imperative to engage with youth now, to share information and to gather perspectives to inform product development efforts. The Youth Advisory Board offers an opportunity to engage youth in advocacy efforts and spread knowledge about male contraception through their networks, as a means of ensuring that those who will benefit from new male contraceptive methods are most ready to accept them when they reach the market.
The inclusion of youth in organizations that serve them is not only important on the surface level—it is also evidence-based. It is described as a “right” and a “priority,” and can include both direct effects on young people, and direct effects on institutions that serve youth (Villa-Torres & Svanemyr, 2015). Including youth in organizations draws on their expertise and enables them to exercise their rights. It also presents them as a valuable resource capable of providing competent contributions, rather than playing a passive role. Including youth also helps them with their personal development, and gives them knowledge and skills. It leverages their unique expertise as well: young people are experts on being young people (Checkoway, 2011).
The Youth Advisory Board uses a variety of strategies to reach more youth, and these strategies themselves are based on the input from the youth advisory board members, together with guidance from MCI. Members plan and host events at institutions they are part of, gather stories about contraception from people in their networks, facilitate partnerships with institutions and other youth, and write blog posts, among other outreach and engagement activities.
Who are we?
There are three members as of now, but we’re trying to grow!
Tyrone is a force support officer in the US Air Force. He’s from rural northeastern North Carolina, and he graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2019. His expertise and interests are in health education, men’s health, sexual assault and domestic violence, sexual health, and minority health disparities.
Connie is a Duke undergrad from London. She studies psychology and is on track to be an OBGYN. She’s also a swimmer, and is the captain of Duke’s varsity swim team. She’s passionate about female reproductive health.
Kathryn is an MPH student at University of North Carolina. Her expertise is in advocacy and health communication, and her interests are in sexual health, behavior change, health equity, and self-empowerment and agency.
To read more about the members and to find out what they think about male contraception, head to the Youth Advisory Board page or MCI’s Instagram page.