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Jayline Pakoa, a youth advocate in Vanuatu who educates people on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues, believes behaviour change communication (BCC) can be a powerful strategy to create positive behaviours towards family planning.

Through interactions and discussions with individuals, communities and societies, behaviour change communication helps create positive behaviours that lead to desired health outcomes. In work such as Jayline’s, which involves advising community members on topics that are seen as ‘taboo’ and which people are not comfortable discussing with family and friends, BCC is an effective way of removing barriers and helping people to speak openly about their feelings and opinions on issues such as family planning and SRH as well as actively seeking related services.

As part of its Transformative Agenda (TA) programme—an Australian Government-funded programme that aims for zero unmet need for family planning in the Pacific—UNFPA partnered with Nossal Institute, the Ministry of Health, and key NGOs such as CARE, Won Smol Bag and World Vision to develop a BCC strategy for Vanuatu. The goals of this strategy include: increasing demand for family planning services; removing the barriers that women face in accessing family planning services; and creating an enabling environment that supports and sustains access to family planning.

In December 2021, UNFPA partnered with CARE International and Wan Smol Bag—a Vanuatu-based non-profit organisation—to hold a two-day workshop on Tanna Island with 12 men (aged between 21 and 60) and 30 women.

Jayline supported the workshop’s facilitation, where behavior change communication products and messages were pre-tested with rural community stakeholders for improvement and applicability.


“Over the course of my work, I’ve observed that many women in Vanuatu seek to be well-informed on family planning and other health issues and treatment,” Jayline said. “But many others need to seek permission from their male partners to attend trainings on sexual and reproductive health. They fear they may become victims of domestic violence if they don’t get their partner’s permission.”  

However, Lily Iawantak, 34, a participant at the workshop, said that she has noticed changes in the community following the workshop. “There is more respect and order,” she said. “We observe less domestic violence now.”

The workshop brought to light many misconceptions held by the participants about family planning. These included the notions that family planning harms a woman’s health, that it causes weight gain in women, and increases promiscuity amongst women.

The group agreed on specific information that could help change community views on family planning, including: the effect of women having babies when they are very young or having them too close together; menstruation and understanding unintended pregnancies; existing types of family planning and how they work; and any side effects of family planning and what to do if they occur.

Saira Shameem, Deputy Director of UNFPA Pacific, said: “It’s great to see community members come together to talk openly about topics generally considered taboo. Behavior change communication can be especially effective when the main barriers to change relate to knowledge and behaviour, such as social norms and health concerns around family planning. Workshops such as this have the potential to help establish healthier community attitudes and practices on family planning.”


Despite the many challenges faced in engaging rural communities over the years, Jayline has seen many positive outcomes from her work, where both men and women have been able to access empowering SRH and family planning information and services. The December 2021 workshop provided such an opportunity, with participants from Tanna Island learning and sharing ideas about family planning concepts, methods, and practices.


Watch a video about the Tanna Island workshop on sexual and reproductive health and learn more about Lily Iawantak’s story