Young feminists – and youth, in general – often get a bad rap for being complacent. Born into an era of legal birth control and abortion (for now, at any rate), it’s easy to take accuse Millennials of taking sexual and reproductive healthcare for granted. But this overly simplistic finger pointing is neither productive nor accurate.
The fact is there are plenty of teens actively engaged in protecting and promoting reproductive healthcare through peer activism and education. They’re inspiring and facilitating change within themselves and their communities, and they’re doing it in fun, creative and cutting-edge ways.
Four Planned Parenthood affiliates partnered with Connected Health Solution’s MyMediaLife to create teen-produced, -directed and -acted PSAs. The topics ranged from evaluating healthy relationships to communicating about sex and what actually happens when you visit a Planned Parenthood clinic. The resulting videos are poignant, smart and funny, and underscore how savvy and motivated teens can be.
Indeed, as Kenny Neal Shults, principal of Connected Health Solutions, told me, “What always impresses me about working with teens is how capable they are when they are supported, respected and given the space to execute things themselves… Much of what we think is ‘typical teen behavior’ is actually indignant reactions to adults’ overbearing or patronizing approaches to supplying guidance or information.”
With regards to the nearly 40 teens that worked on the Planned Parenthood PSAs, Shults affirmed they “have a natural and strong sense of justice that informed their work on these campaigns in ways that were truly jaw dropping.”
He isn’t exaggerating.
Last week, Connected Health Services and Planned Parenthood honored the teens with an award ceremony at Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s headquarters. The audience was treated to a viewing of all six PSAs and we collectively cheered on the teenagers as they accepted awards for Best PSA, Most Heartwarming, Funniest PSA and more.
The kids’ energy was infectious and it quickly became clear that the key to successfully changing behaviors among our youth population is not through lectures, but through active engagement. As Rosario Minier, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County’s Coordinator of Youth and College Initiatives, said, “Teens must be treated with honesty and respect and they need to be given the power over and ownership of their work. Teens know best what messages will be effective with their peers.” And she knows what she’s talking about; her team’s PSA took home three awards, including Best PSA.
The bottom line is when we take the time to step back and listen – really listen – to what is important to teens and involve them in decision-making, magic can happen.
Don’t believe me? Check out the PSAs for yourself: