Published on 28 March 2023 | Emma Collingbourne

The EAGLE project in Mozambique is a literacy and life skills programme funded by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by VSO and Light for the World. EAGLE stands for Empowering Adolescent Girls to Learn and Earn – and girls can do neither of these things if they are not able to make informed choices about their sexual health and relationships.

Avert was engaged as technical partner to develop a digital approach to the life skills component. The aim was to harness the benefits of digital for this marginalised group – developing tailored health learning journeys, expanding the girls’ sources of sexual and reproductive health and rights information, and providing a home learning tool they can refer back to again and again.

A human-centred design approach

Developing an app on culturally taboo topics, for users with low levels of literacy, who use regional spoken-only languages, and who have never used mobile devices before, required putting the girls right at the centre of the design process and consulting them at every stage.

Our starting point was setting up co-creation groups with the girls, to understand what they already knew about their sexual and reproductive health choices and what they were keen to learn about. A target ‘persona’ was developed that embodied the core life experiences, aspirations and frustrations of the girls, and the learning objectives and content modules were developed to respond to the needs of this persona.

The app was co-created to be intuitive and easy to use, encouraging users to think about how the information applies to them and their situation, building confidence as well as knowledge, and supporting self-efficacy and agency.


Character-led content

The result is Yaya, a character-led app, with strong relatable characters who guide and help the girls to explore the content, including sensitive and complex information that is new to them. The main character, Yaya, is an older sister and relatable role model who motivates and celebrates the girls. ‘Mbuya’ is a grandmother, the trusted older relative, who is compassionate and understanding.

The translation and voice actors were critical to ensure the language, dialect and tone of the voices were understandable and relatable to all of the girls. With vocabulary and dialects varying across the project areas, not to mention the lack of vocabulary for certain terms and body parts, this process was both challenging and time consuming, but also crucial to success. Through community consultations and the help of local language translators, we were able to strike the difficult balance of giving the girls the information they need, while working sensitively within the wider cultural context of the communities they live in. We worked with the co-creation groups and a local branding agency to create bespoke images that could bring the characters and audio content to life.

Engaging the target audience in the development and testing of the content, the voices and characters names, as well as the images and branding, has ensured that all parts of the app are familiar, relevant and relatable for the girls, avoiding negative connotations and associations with negative cultural practises. Safeguarding testing was an important final step to ensure the app contained no harmful language.

The journey continues

Based on the level of excitement and engagement during all phases of the app’s co-creation, the project has already shown the value that digital approaches can have with digitally naïve and excluded groups. Donor willingness to invest in digital devices was a core part of making this possible.

We are very proud of the journey we have been on to create the Yaya life skills app, and as it is rolled out to the girls it was designed with and for, we look forward to seeing results that reflect the positive impact it has on their lives.

Photo credit: mauritius images GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo. Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.