The Power of Seeing Yourself: Nia Teen Magazine by ZanaAfrica
by Alyssa Bertram
Magazines have often been criticized in Western culture for reinforcing unrealistic beauty standards and blatant consumerism. But what if this form of media could be used to represent young girls in empowering ways? Used to teach, to inspire and empower?
ZanaAfrica imagined and created a reproductive health magazine that would do just that. Nia Teen celebrates girls and fills a gap created by the lack of formal health education in Kenya. Nia Teen uses the medium to create "aspirational and transformative media."
This magazine is meant to serve and improve the health and agency of adolescent girls living in the deepest pockets of economic and informational poverty - alongside, Nia Yetu (or “Our Purpose”) a corresponding 24-session facilitated health education curriculum.
Nia Teen was built through an iterative process, using real world questions collected from their yearly programming with adolescent girls in Kenya. The magazine aims to provide information, affirmations and guidance, each of which is crucial to navigating the challenges unique to puberty.
Topics include menstrual and reproductive health education through a rights-based lens, alongside activities, to foster self-efficacy, and to support girls to safely and confidently navigate adolescence and stay in school.An embedded comic within the magazine demonstrates healthy decision-making and has an accompanying discussion guide.
Nia Teen is designed for scalability at low cost and minimal reliance on facilitators, and will be piloted alongside sanitary pads as part of a randomized controlled trial in 2017 conducted by The Population Council, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This study, called The Nia Project, will be the first study in Sub-Saharan Africa to rigorously measure the individual and combined effects of sanitary pads and reproductive health education on girls' educational, social, and health outcomes.
The results of this trial, which will be out in 2019, will be a seminal contribution to the global evidence base and will expand the definition of menstrual health to include sexual and reproductive health and rights.