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Gender equality event in Armenia

On July 27th 2016, Society Without Violence NGO (SWV) organized its annual public event in Artik, Shirak region titled “I am the master of my life”.  The event was dedicated to empower women, especially adolescent girls, and boys, and give them the necessary knowledge about women’s human rights and gender equality.

One important message of the annual public event was to inform the residents of Artik about sexual and reproductive health rights, and their indivisibility from women’s human rights in general. More than 50 mostly young girls and boys participated in the event held in “Gagarin Park”, and joined in the organized games and social theater, all aimed at highlighting and breaking gender stereotypes, and empowering young girls and women.

Through the event, the women and girls, of Artik were informed by means of posters and slogans such as “I am setting my own limits”, “My body is not your property”, and “My body my right”, that any decision related to women’s bodies, or decisions affecting their bodily integrity is only theirs to make. The achievement of the event did not stop there however. Young boys were also involved, and were sensitized to the issues of gender inequality and women’s bodily integrity. Moreover, the participants were informed about the significance of making sexual and reproductive health services available, accessible, and acceptable and of the highest quality attainable to all women and girls, specifically in rural areas.

Source: SWV

The campaign on youth SRHR in Croatia

CESI has noticed, trough the work with the youth, that they do want to learn about SRHR but do not have the opportunity in the existing school curriculum. Attitudes of young people towards socially sensitive topics, like abortion rights or emergency contraception are often based on distortions and incomplete information. 

Youth who participated in a series of discussions organized by CESI say: 

"We believe that we know some things, but we do not, and we are afraid to ask."

"I'm interested in the topic and read an interesting article on SRHR. I do have some kind of attitude towards it, but new information always helps me to build the attitudes up a bit."

"Young people aged 14-16 are interested, and they wish to learn more. After that age, they believe they know everything. We are not sure what do we need to know and do not know how to ask."

Therefore, CESI has launched the campaign "My thing, my choice - it's time to find out more", which aims to inform and encourage the youth to think about different aspects of sexuality, reproductive and sexual rights and health. 

CESI wishes to make it easier for youth to learn about SRHR and to make it possible for them to exercise their rights in full scope in a responsible way. Furthermore, the project aims to put in perspective, for the target group, what goes under the umbrella of sexual and reproductive rights.  The idea is to share various multimedia materials on the Facebook page and animate the youth to think trough and talk about facts and figures that shape their everyday life and potential choices. 

Source: CESI

International Youth Day 2016: Youth Leading Sustainability

12 August 2016: International Youth Day

The theme of the 2016 International Youth Day is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”.

This year’s Day is about achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production.

Sustainable consumption entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities while safeguarding the needs of future generations. The development and promotion of individual choices and actions that increase the eco-efficiency of consumption of all and minimize waste and pollution is critical to achieving equitable socioeconomic development. Yet, many young men and women face barriers to certain green consumption choices. Those barriers to sustainable consumption choices include the high prices of goods and services and a lack of information about the available choices.

Increasing resource efficiency and moving toward sustainable production can contribute significantly to meeting the basic needs of all people, including youth, by making food, water and energy more accessible and affordable to those living in poverty. Investing in sustainable production also creates new markets and employment opportunities and helps ensure the social inclusion of all persons in their societies everywhere.

Changes in consumption patterns also have the potential to contribute to the eradication of poverty. Sustainable development and the creation of conditions that allow for a transition into a green economy, often provide new impetus for economic growth and a higher proportion of spending allocated to social development, including health care and education.

The combined positive impact of sustainable consumption and production on energy use and environmental conservation will greatly benefit those people and places that are more vulnerable to harmful environmental— and industrial— outcomes and climate change. By focusing on the social development dimensions of sustainable consumption and production, this year’s theme places an emphasis on a cross-sectoral approach to sustainability and the vast social, political, economic and environmental interlinkages needed to achieve it.

 

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY

In 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the General Assembly declared August 12 International Youth Day, which gives an opportunity to celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives. Celebrations at the United Nations Headquarters and around the world will recognize the importance of youth efforts, collaboration and participation in the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and in particular the role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production. Events to celebrate International Youth Day 2016 will take place all over the world. Be part of the celebrations by organizing your own event or activity. You can organize an event to celebrate International Youth Day in your community, school, youth club, or workplace. Let us know about your event by sending your planned event or activity for International Youth Day toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we’ll map it on the IYD World Map of Events. You can also follow us on social media at United Nations Youth on Facebook and @UN4Youth on Twitter!

More information on the event: https://www.un.org/development/desa/youth/international-youth-day-2016.html

Source: United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development

UN World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement

The World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement, prepared by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), explores young people's participation in economic, political and community life.

UN DESA provides an interface between global policies in the economic, social and environmental spheres and national action. The UN World Youth Report, its biennial publication, offers fresh perspectives and innovative ideas on youth engagement, and is intended to serve as an impetus and tool for dialogue, policy discussion and action between youth and government.

The current Report responds to growing interest in, and an increased policy focus on, youth civic engagement in recent years among governments, young people and researchers. The Report provides thematic insights on economic, political and community engagement, coupled with expert opinion pieces so as to provide robust and varied perspectives into youth engagement. 

The report is accessible here.

The Prevention Gap report by UNAIDS reveals concerning trends in new HIV infections among adults

The Prevention gap report shows that while significant progress is being made in stopping new HIV infections among children (new HIV infections have declined by more than 70% among children since 2001 and are continuing to decline), the decline in new HIV infections among adults has stalled. The report shows that HIV prevention urgently needs to be scaled up among this age group.

The report shows that an estimated 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years and that new HIV infections among adults are rising in some regions. The Prevention gap report gives the clear message that HIV prevention efforts need to be increased in order to stay on the Fast-Track to ending AIDS by 2030.

According to the report Eastern Europe and central Asia saw a 57% increase in annual new HIV infections between 2010 and 2015.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 51% of new HIV infections occur among people who inject drugs. More than 80% of the region’s new HIV infections in 2015 were in the Russian Federation. The epidemic is concentrated predominantly among key populations and their sexual partners, in particular people who inject drugs, who accounted for more than half of new HIV infections in 2015. However there is very low coverage of prevention programmes, in particular harm-reduction interventions among people who inject drugs.

UNAIDS urges countries to take a location and population approach to HIV programming efforts following five prevention pillars, to be delivered comprehensively and in combination:

  • Programmes for young women and adolescent girls and their male partners in high-prevalence locations.
  • Key population services in all countries.
  • Strengthened national condom programmes.
  • Voluntary medical male circumcision in priority countries.
  • PrEP for population groups at higher risk of HIV infection.

Source: UNAIDS Press Release

UN Special Rapporteur on Health report on adolescents

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras, has presented the report on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health at the UN Human Rights Council.

In the document Rapporteur focuses on adolescents’ health, including mental, sexual and reproductive health. He calls the States to ‘remove all legal barriers to access health facilities, goods and services that interfere with the rights of adolescents to be heard and to be taken seriously and that, ultimately, limit their right to make autonomous decisions.’

He highlights that healthcare services should ensure respect for adolescents’ rights to privacy and confidentiality, address their different cultural needs and expectations, and comply with ethical standards. 

Moreover, the report includes recommendation for States to adopt or integrate a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for all adolescents into national strategies and programmes to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services. Pūras recommends to decriminalize abortion, ensure adolescents the access to confidential and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health information, services and good and integrate comprehensive sexuality education in the school curriculum. The expert noted that adolescents should be protected from violence and neglect, including in family settings, by the upholding of their right to confidential services and counselling without parental consent. He also recommended to support families to increase the abilities of parents to raise children and adolescents in a competent and confident manner, and reinforce skills to manage situations in a non-violent way. 

The report is available here.

Source: OHCHR

“Speak my language”: Abortion Storytelling in Eastern Europe from a Youth Perspective

“Speak my language”: Abortion Storytelling in Eastern Europe from a Youth Perspective. A Toolkit Developed by and for Young People with inputs from Georgia, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Poland and Romania - new and very interesting publication by YouAct with great input from ASTRA Youth.

Why abortion stigma? 

We believe it is imperative to consider abortion stigma as a critical issue for youth. We recognise the importance of considering the most human aspects of abortion. There is much more than just abortion rights, and health factors. Abortion is a social reality, a cultural phenomenon, and a human experience. Abortion stigma is a social and cultural event which can lead to social, medical and legal ramifications. The consequences raised by abortion stigma are placed within a context where social norms, health and social policies, and community practices play strong roles on the development of abortion experiences (For more on abortion stigma, see http://www.endabortionstigma.org/). 

Why Eastern Europe? 

Since the collapse of communism, Eastern Europe has witnessed a number of transformations, especially on political and economic levels. Despite progress in the form of economic development and empowerment of civil society as one of the effective mechanisms calling for the accountability of authorities, there are still grey areas to be addressed. The region has to struggle with growing inequalities, social injustice, discrimination, corruption, religious fundamentalism and patriarchal structures. This situation is reflected in a number of fields, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Why this toolkit? 

We believe sharing these experiences can empower youth to create a different human reality by eliminating abortion stigma. Stories have a power of their own – telling and sharing them, can help us develop profoundly, as well as give people the chance to see  what abortion stigma can mean to others.

With this toolkit, we aim to provide organisations, professionals, individuals, and especially youth with a framework to develop their own strategies to use storytelling to draw out the voices from our bodies*, learn to speak a language through which we can satisfactorily communicate abortion stigma, and provide others with the tools to learn to speak our language.

You can view/download the publication here.

*Reference inspired by the work of Frank, Arthur (1995) The Wounded Storyteller: body, illness and ethics. London: The University of Chicago Press

Source: YouAct

Disturbing results: Nearly half of young people think it's okay to be violent in intimate relationships

Almost half of the students participating in a pilot program on violence in intimate partner relationships think that a young man or woman shall have the right to hit their partner. This disturbing information was presented on press conference ‘Equality against violence in intimate partner relationships’. The results of the program, which involved 330 students of 12 Croatian schools, were presented at the conference. 
 
It seems that violence is an integral part of the relationship as much as 47 percent of young people think that a young man has the right to hit his girlfriend if she wants to break up with him or if she paid more attention to friends than to him. Also, 49 percent of young people think that a girl has the right to hit her boyfriend if he doesn’t listen. About a one-third of young people stated that they know their peer couples, in whose relationships verbal, physical and sexual violence is present.
 
Natasa Bijelic from the Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) pointed out that they see signs of change in the attitudes of young people as they recognize violent behaviors. However, it was a result of education through a number of programs.
 
Addressing the youth, gender equality ombudswoman Visnja Ljubicic stressed that partner violence in Croatian legislation is not regulated in the way it should be, and warned that police data in the last year indicated that 64 percent of women were victims of violence. Only 18 percent of citizens believe that women and men are fully equal in our society. 20 percent of men think that they have to have the last word, and it is believed by 80 percent of women living in the rural areas.
 
Deputy Ombudsman for Children Gabelica Šupljika highlighted that the main problem is a still quite a patriarchal society. On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Darko Toth pointed out that we can have a course to combat violence among pupils, but if everyday reality shows something else, such courses won’t yield results.
 
The conference was the final activity of the project "Raising awareness on gender equality against violence in partner relationships - GEAR II" which, besides CESI, was carried out by organizations from Greece, Spain, Cyprus, and Romania.
 

Our health. Our rights. Our lives!

A group of feminist associations and initiatives marked the International Day of Action for Women’s Health with a guerrilla action to highlight the fact that women’s reproductive health is much more than the right to abortion. The nighttime action was conducted in several larger cities all over Croatia. We decorated the statues of women in Split, Poreč, Rijeka, Opatija and Zagreb with sashes that had ‘’Our health. Our rights. Our lives!’’ written on them. At the moment, with their existence, they are sending a message that is true today and will be true forever, no matter how much conservative parties try to negate it.

In light of the growing movement looking to ban abortion, all under the disguise of caring for women’s health and demographics we find that it is extremely important to show the public that the discourse about women’s reproductive health does not refer only and exclusively to the termination of pregnancy. Reproductive rights include the right to artificial insemination and the right to a dignified delivery, however those categories are not in the job description of the ‘’pro-life advocates’’. The same goes for the shameful conditions of maternity wards. On the other hand, Croatia has never regulated the option of homebirth for women who wish to have one, despite the requests of women.

The right to an abortion is a woman's human right and it must remain legal and safe.

We should keep in mind all the aspects of women’s health, including pregnancy prevention and availability (or lack thereof) of free hormonal contraception, discriminatory laws which regulate the right to sterilization as a method of permanent contraception, pregnancy itself, delivery and post-partum period. We also find that it is extremely important to speak about violence and discrimination during birth which isn’t recorded in medical documents and women don’t report it out of fear and shame.

The health of trans* people and lesbians isn’t recognized in the system and what they experience is continued discrimination during exercising their right to healthcare. When speaking of women’s health, one must consider all women, not just the ones ‘’fit’’ to continue the Croatian line.

Furthermore, sex and health education in schools is not integrated as a life-skill training based on science and facts, but its implementation is rather subjected to personal interpretations of the teacher, leaving plenty of space for manipulation and indoctrination. Such state is being prolonged indefinitely with this government’s treatment of the new curricular reform and their attempts to implicate politics and impose particular ideological stances, which is also something we use this action to condemn.

To conclude, we would like to remind you of the recommendations of the Anti-Discriminatory Board, with which they ask Croatia to regulate their Appeal of Conscience for their doctors in a way that exercising it would not interfere with a woman’s access to pregnancy termination and the care that follows after it, to ensure autonomy and the making of an informed decision for pregnant women during birth, but also to introduce homebirths for women who want them. In these same recommendations it was suggested that Croatia undertakes measures to allow lesbian and bisexual women, as well as trans* people full use of their basic human rights.

Feminists point out the fact that sexual and reproductive rights are a string of very important human rights which are being institutionally broken and the governing structures are not doing anything to change this situation. All decisions regarding reproductive health are made by the woman, our society should respect it, our state has to guarantee it and religion should not interfere with it.


Source:
Znajznanje.org

Civil society appealing to Lithuanian Ministry of Education for CSE

At the moment, the working group for preparation of a new sexuality education programme is working in Lithuania. The working group members are mainly priests, parents of conservative attitudes, members of NGOs that act for saving life from the zygote. So that is the main reason why all suggestions to develop gender equality, science and human rights based programme were mainly crossed out. What’s more, those who disagree with conservative opinions are being called killers, murderers, pornography company members who want to prepare "sex users". The bigger conservative side is winning at this point. But, the draft of this program was shared and lots of human rights NGOs started to talk.

Over thirty non-governmental youth, human rights and women’s organizations signed a letter to the Ministry of Education to review the upcoming sexuality education programme. The organizations claim that the current draft programme on sexuality education doesn’t provide high quality information enabling young people to develop interpersonal relationship and engage in safe sex practices. According to letter authors, the programme should be focused on age-adequate and scientifically-based information for students and shouldn’t distort the reality with biased, negative information.

The signatories call the Ministry to pay appropriate attention to this topic and develop an alternative, human rights and scientific-based sexuality education programme. They also expressed concern about the Minister of Education claim that science and human-rights based sexuality education programme introduced by NGOs is influenced by business interest. The Minister asked for explanation on the facts justifying the necessity for sexuality education programme.

With contribution of  Julita Valancauskyte, FSPHA Lithuania

Source: Mano Teises

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