The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has deployed an applaudable innovation called U-Plan.
The WhatsApp chatbot is designed to provide accurate and adequate information on contraception as well as contraceptive methods to AYP, PWD and all Women of Reproductive Age. This will be done in the comfort of their homes, in utmost confidentiality, with linkages provided to the Service Delivery Points.
In an interview with an officer from UNFPA, part of the inspiration that birthed U-Plan was revealed as an effort to mitigate challenges young people encounter in accessing contraceptives due to social and cultural beliefs.
The UNFPA officer explained that many young people are denied access to contraceptives when seeking them at health facilities, often facing judgment based on their age. This has left them to access misinformation from their peers, and unintended pregnancy culminating in unsafe abortion.
To tackle this issue, U-Plan was conceptualized to leverage the widespread use of mobile phones, particularly smartphones, among young individuals.
Recognizing that WhatsApp is a popular social media app for communication in Nigeria, the UNFPA decided to create a chatbot within the platform named “U-Plan,” the chatbot’s moniker signifies a personalized and individualized approach to meeting everyone’s unique needs.
The goal is to empower young people, those with disabilities, and all women of reproductive age with accurate and comprehensive information on contraceptives and contraception methods. The chatbot also connects users to nearby youth-oriented family planning service providers while maintaining confidentiality. Moreover, U-Plan offers a feature for live chatting with online agents who are experienced service providers.
When questioned about parental acceptance of the platform, the officer acknowledged the varying perspectives of parents but emphasized the importance of accurate and adequate information on contraceptives for adolescents. The officer pointed out that many young people are already exposed to misinformation about the prevention of pregnancy sex from various sources, making the provision of correct information through U-Plan essential in preventing unplanned pregnancies and STIs.
To ensure that all intended users are aware of U-Plan, the UNFPA would disseminate information about U-Plan via radio jingles, leaflets, posters, and social media adverts to raise awareness about the chatbot’s benefits. Furthermore, U-Plan is made available to married couples, mothers, and other parents, assisting them in family planning decisions and providing convenient access to contraceptives.
Innovative communication methods, including dance performances and other engaging approaches, are being used to reach young people and make U-Plan’s information appealing to them. Prominent figures like comedians and the like, who are interested in advocating for young people’s reproductive health are being leveraged. The interviewee noted that you can chat with U-Plan by adding the number 0916 739 5795 to your WhatsApp contacts which gives you easy access to accurate and adequate information on contraception.
In conclusion, the UNFPA’s U-Plan initiative showcases a forward-thinking approach to providing accurate and confidential contraception information to young people, persons with disability, and all women of reproductive age. By leveraging the popularity of WhatsApp and employing creative communication strategies, U-Plan aims to empower individuals to make informed decisions about the adoption of contraception, thereby safeguarding their future reproductive health.