AGEP’s Issue-based Youth Advocacy 

AGEP works to engage the leadership of young women on issues they identify and that impact their lives most deeply.
These issues include:
  • Youth/Early Marriage,
  • Educational Access for Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE),
  • Access to culturally and linguistically Reproductive and Sexual Health (ReSH) Information and Services, and
  • the challenges of Family Reunification
Our work on these issues.

Youth/ Early Marriage

Currently, there is little legal protection for youth who are being forced to marry at young ages. Girls who are either forced or coerced into marriage as teenagers have little recourse or support if they do not want to be married given the societal pressures they face.  However, the consequences of such practices are real for immigrant young women including unintended pregnancy, a big age difference between the girl and the intended spouse, unequal power relations in the marriage to list just a few.  The unequal power dynamics in such age-disparate relationships have been linked to increased risks for STI/HIV due to inexperience negotiating safe sexual practices; domestic violence; and financial dependence and isolation, as girls married young have not had the opportunity to develop connections, establish supportive relationships with peers and acquire the skills to earn income independent of the spouse or family.  Further, women who are married younger are more likely to have children younger and to have more children more frequently threatening the health of the mother and child as well as being a high risk factor for poverty.
Sauti Yetu is working with ethnic associations, community based organizations that serve youth and communities where forced early marriage is prevalent. Our work seeks to develop a community engagement strategy that  response to early/forced/coerced marriage and informs policies that are designed to protect young women.
To learn more or to join the Early/Youth Marriage Working Group, contact Ramatu Bangura at Also click below to print out Sauti Yetu’s 10 Things to Consider About Forced Early Marriage and to read Sauti Yetu’s White Paper on Early/Youth Marriage.
10 Things to Consider About Youth Marriage [forthcoming]
White Papers [forthcoming]

Educational Access for SIFE

According to a 2010 report published by Advocates for Children, Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) are immigrant students who may enter American schools with little to no formal schooling in their countries of origin. SIFEs are a subset of the nearly 150,000 New York City English Language Learner (ELL) population of which only 39.7% graduated high school in the class of 2009. Nineteen percent had dropped out before completing four years of high school. SIFE, along with other high needs ELLs and newcomer ELLs, make up the majority of ELLs in New York City middle and high schools.  They represent a sub-population of ELLs who have some of the biggest barriers to education access due to the limited time these youth have to meet graduation requirements, develop reading and writing skills in English, and acculturate to the society and schooling system.  
Although SIFE students are a particularly challenged subset of immigrant English Language Learners (ELLs), many are able to make significant gains in their literacy, numeracy and English language learning when they receive support that is specific to both their cultural language and literacy needs. AGEP works to advocate for policy and curricular changes to support those English Language Learners who represent linguistic communities that may be new and unfamiliar to the New York City public school system. By providing training to school faculty and staff, working with staff to utilize native languages in the learning of SIFE students and collaborating with other immigrant youth serving organizations, we seek to ensure education access to youth most readily shut out of the education system.
10 Things to Consider about Education Access for English Language Learners [forthcoming]
White Papers [forthcoming]

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

The lack of access to quality and comprehensive reproductive and sexual health information for American youth is a well-documented contributor to high rates of teen pregnancy and rates of STI and HIV infection among young people. For immigrant youth who are learning English it can be more difficult to access information in languages they understand and to get their questions answered. In addition to linguistic challenges, cultural barriers render the information created for American youth irrelevant for immigrant youth. For example, many of the sexual and reproductive health information for youth assume cultural norms of youth dating and unmarried youth. For youth from cultures where dating is frowned up if not prohibited or where marriage happens at an early age, the resources available are less than adequate.
Sauti Yetu has conducted participatory research project with young immigrant girls to determine where immigrant youth (both boys and girls) access sexual and reproductive health information and services, the quality of information and its relevance to their lives. The results from this youth-led Participatory Action Research study can be found below. From this research, we will develop strategies to make the places where youth go for information more relevant and comprehensive. To learn more about Reproductive and Sexual Health of African immigrant youth and the broader immigrant youth populations check out the following links:
links [forthcoming]
10 Things to Consider about the Access to Reproductive and Sexual Health Information and Services for African Immigrant Youth [forthcoming]
White Papers [forthcoming]