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Berkeley: Digitizing Reproductive Health Education

A teenage girl named Happy needs to make a decision: She was offered both a job and an acceptance to university, and needs to choose one. She goes to Mutoni, her mentor, who tells Happy to write down her goals on a piece of paper, keep this list, and study it while making her decision. Once she makes her choice, Happy will start to see how that decision aligns with her goals. And if they don’t, she can take a step back in time and choose again.

Happy is an avatar in a gamified digital platform called CyberRwanda, geared toward youth in Rwanda to help them think more clearly about their future. Developed by YLabs, CyberRwanda specifically aims to fill gaps in family planning and reproductive health education in Rwanda — gaps partially created by the misinformation and stigma that often make youth-friendly services difficult to access for unmarried young people.

In 2019, YLabs approached Dr. Sandra McCoy, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, to conduct a rigorous assessment of CyberRwanda as the platform will be introduced into certain schools across Rwanda starting in March 2020. Over an 18-month period, Dr. McCoy, along with Dean Emeritus Dr. Stefano Bertozzi and Dr. Laura Packel, research director of Dr. McCoy’s team, will evaluate CyberRwanda’s effect on teenage pregnancy rates while improving access to both voluntary family planning methods and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing.

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