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Astra youth

Sexuality education –still a taboo topic in Macedonia

Macedonia rates of unwanted teen pregnancies have risen three times in comparison to any European country and the numbers of sexually transmitted infections are growing. According to H.E.R.A., which for years has advocated for introduction of sexuality education in schools, this data is not surprising, as the rate of modern contraception usage is the lowest in Europe.

H.E.R.A. initiatives to introduce sexuality education were supported by the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and in 2011 the relevant curriculum was developed. However, as it included explanation of gender identities and information on diverse sexual orientations, the curriculum was finally rejected.

The Ministry of Education until now repeatedly argued that a separate subject of sexuality education is not necessary. As the Ministry explains, the Life Skills subject includes information on adolescents’ growth and development and involves a section related to sexuality education.

Source: Telma

Outdoor game on STIs for teenagers

Polish ASTRA Youth member, Ponton Group of Sex Educators has organized an outdoor game for young people. The main goal of the game was to increase knowledge and raise awareness about HIV, AIDS and other STIs among adolescents. Participants were young people aged 15-19 from educational care centres.

The game took place in the forest near Warsaw. Ponton volunteers prepared 9 stations, where participants took knowledge test on STIs, played quiddity and played roles related to the topic. They also had an opportunity to develop group work and decision-making skills. 

Source: Ponton Group of Sex Educators

Law proposal banning religious early marriages rejected in Kyrgyzstan

The law proposal, which would outlaw the religious consecration of marriage rites for minors, was banned by the Kyrgyz parliament.

Early marriage is not unusual in Kyrgyzstan; as National Statistics Commission argues, 15% of married women between 25 and 49 years of age got married before turning 18 and 1% did it under the age of 15. In recent years, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child voiced concerns over child, early and forced marriages in Kyrgyzstan.

The law proposal specifically related to religious marriage rites (nikah), as opposed to marriages registered with the state. Amendments proposed by Ata-Meken party deputy Aida Salyanova aimed to criminalize the forcible imposition of religious mariage rites before their official registration. The proposal was supported by 44 MPs and opposed by 61.


ASTRA Youth at Women Deliver 2016 conference

Women Deliver 4th Global Conference took place on 16-19 May 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was a large gathering on women’s health and rights of 5000 participants, among which there were world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers, corporate companies’ representatives and civil society.

ASTRA Youth members from Croatia, Romania, Poland, Armenia and Ukraine attended the conference as participants of Women Deliver Young Leaders Programme and scholarships’ recipients. Young activists participated in Women Deliver Youth Pre-Conference, during which they gained knowledge and skills on advocacy, youth leadership, coalition building, accountability and media representation.

ASTRA Youth members represented the network also at panel discussions during the conference. Representative of Croatian AY member organization CESI was a speaker at a panel ‘Using accountability to defend rights’, where she presented data collection on abortion accesibility in Croatia and how civil society used it for advocacy actions. She was involved in the Youth Zone session ‘Broadcasting Youth Voices’, where she discussed her journalist experience in mainstreaming information on SRHR. She also facilitated the break-out session on health education, being a part of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Caucus, organized by RODA-Parents in Action. Participants of the session were talking about challenges related to sexuality education in their countries and provided solutions. ASTRA Youth coordinator was a speaker at the panel discussion organized by Amnesty International ‘The impact of criminalizing sexuality and reproduction: a Human Rights violation’, where she reviewed limitations of young people’s SRHR in the region as well as discussed recent anti-choice mobilization in Poland.

ASTRA Youth and Amnesty International conducted a joint participatory session 'Respect My Rights, Respect My Dignity: Participatory Ways to Tackle Taboo Topics' at Youth Zone. ASTRA Youth members from Armenia, Romania and Croatia facilitated part of the session, focused on social theatre methods and their usage for discussing SRHR issues. Session participants had an opportunity to be involved in social theatre exercise, thanks to which they learned how to work on taboo topics in a participatory way.


ASTRA Youth at Women Deliver 2016

Women Deliver’s 4th Global Conference will be taking place on 16-19 May 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is going to be the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The focus of the conference will be on how to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and on gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment. The conference will bring together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers, and leaders of corporate companies and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when girls and women become the focus of development efforts.

To learn more about the Women Deliver 2016 conference download the conference 2-pager here.

ASTRA Youth representatives will attend the Women Deliver 2016 conference and contribute to conference events:

May 17th, 15:00-16:00
Youth Zone, Exhibition Hall C
ASTRA Youth and Amnesty International organizing the joint session: Respect my Rights, Respect my Dignity: Participatory ways to Tackle Taboo Topics
This session will use participatory approaches to open up conversations on  taboo subjects, identify challenges faced by diverse groups and to stand up for sexual and reproductive rights. 
Participants will first reflect on the power different individuals and groups are given in society to access their rights, after which social theatre methods will be used to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.
May 17th, 15:00-16:00
Room B3-1 Bella Center
ASTRA Youth representative is participating as a speaker at the Amnesty International panel discussion:The Impact of Criminalizing Sexuality and Reproduction: A Human Rights Violation
This session will focus on the global trend of criminalizing sexual and reproductive decisions, actions and gender expression, which impinges on individuals’ personal and bodily autonomy and violates a range of human rights worldwide. These punitive legal approaches also impede states’ achievement toward the SDGs. In this context, it appears that those who pass and enforce criminal laws and policies or are directly involved in the management of criminal justice systems have little knowledge or understanding of governments’ related human rights obligations, and/or do not fully understand or acknowledge the negative impact that criminal laws and their enforcement can have on individuals’ human rights and development more broadly. 

Those who support criminalization of sexuality and reproduction often claim that these measures protect morality, increase safety, reduce harm, or encourage health-promoting behaviours. However, these assertions are being challenged around the world, particularly by human rights activists and health experts. There is growing recognition that criminalizing sexuality and reproduction in fact increases the risks to individuals and communities and obstructs the provision of effective health services. Additionally, governments’ have an obligation to use criminal law as a last resort and to engage in evidence-based law and policy making.

Panellists will talk about their experience of being punished for exercising their sexual and reproductive rights, as well as the impact of punitive laws on their ability to provide health services. They will also share their ideas around alternative regulatory or educational approaches that may be taken that may be more effective at promoting health, particularly sexual and reproductive health and respect human rights. The group will further discuss the difficulties with historically relying upon calls for criminal legal redress for gender-based violence and yet looking beyond criminal law to address other potential harms

May 19th, 10:30-12:00
Bella Centre
Roda - Parents in Action, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Caucus
ASTRA Youth representative moderating the break-out session: Health education for youth

The Caucus will focus on the issue of respectful maternity care and its importance in bringing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to fruition, so that women, babies and families can not only survive, but also thrive and transform our world. 

Join us!

National Agency for Youth Programmes, Activities Development to be created in Moldova

A National Agency for the Development of Youth Programmes and Activities will be created in the near future, in order to ensure the proper implementation of youth policies and programmes. A statement to this effect was made during the meeting of the governmental commission for youth policies, chaired by the Prime Minister Pavel Filip on April 26th, 2016. Filip praised the government’s collaboration with non-governmental organizations that develop youth policies, identify challenges and find solutions to develop this sector. “The active participation of young people in the enforcement of governmental policies is the best way to develop the country. The cabinet backs the participation of youth in the improvement of youth policies, so that they play a major role in the modernization of the society,” Filip said.

The members of the commission have also tackled the consolidation of Youth Centers, financing of youth projects through the annual Grant Programme managed by the Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as the adoption of a new legislative framework to regulate this field. The new draft law on youth will offer them equal opportunities and possibilities to enhance their knowledge, competencies and practical abilities. During the meeting, the prime minister proposed the creation of a working group in charge of assessing and monitoring the involvement of young people in sector policies and also in charge of submitting proposals that could boost up the degree of their participation. Young people account to 25 per cent, or 860 thousand people, of Moldova’s total population.

Survey on attitude towards abortion in Lithuania

In order to find out, what attitude towards abortion prevails in Lithuania, ASTRA Youth member organization, Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (FPSHA) carried out the anonymous online survey. 533 answers were collected. 71,9% of all respondents were young women (15-25 year olds), 21,6% were young adult women (26-35 year olds). 12,38% of all women who participated in the survey had an abortion, half of them (32 out of 66) were between 15 to 25 years old.

Respondents reported, that the biggest fear while choosing if to terminate pregnancy, is to experience the negative reaction from society. This can explain, why almost one third of women who had an abortion (23 out of 66) kept information about it in secret. Women, who terminated a pregnancy informed that they didn’t have comprehensive sexuality education at school and weren’t able to afford contraception because of its high price; they also lacked psychological support from their families and medical staff. They also reported that they didn’t have information where they can have abortion procedure, whether it is reimbursed or not.

The results of the survey also showed  that 73% of respondents had positive attitude towards the existence of an opportunity to have abortion, while 15,8% respondents expressed negative approach. The rest of respondents answered that their attitude ‘depends on situation’, ‘is neutral’ or is positive ‘only when we are talking about medical conditions, raped girl or families with low-income’. There were few answers that stated ‘I am in favour only on medical abortion or abortion till the 5th week’.  49,5 % of respondents stated that they support women who had the abortion, whereas 15,2% demonstrated negative opinion about such women. The rest of the respondents reported that they had neutral position, because they didn’t face the problem of unexpected pregnancy by themselves. There were only few respondents who answered: ‘I support such women, because abortion is a human right’. Also, 90,2 % of respondents believed that women who had an abortion experienced stigmatization. 80,7% of respondents agreed with the statement that stigmatization of abortion in society must be reduced. What’s important, 46,1% of respondents believed that the number of abortions could be reduced by improving  the access to contraception, and 44,7% respondents argued that comprehensive sexuality education has to be introduced to decrease abortion numbers.

Source: FPSHA

Annual meeting of HERA Youth 2016

In the end of March HERA Youth, the volunteer sector of HERA had their annual meeting, where they have revised the official documents of the youth group and developed a new action plan for 2016.

HERA Youth has also decided to restructure from 3 sectors to 2 sectors. During the meeting, HERA Youth has also formed two groups for application on the Vision 2020 fund and activities which will be conducted on 18 May 2016 and this year’s topic is comprehensive sexual education. The process for application was closed on 3th of April and it awaits decision on which group of HERA Youth is going to implement their project on the Vision 2020 fund. The group currently consists of 70 volunteers. HERA Youth is one of the most important sectors in HERA and the moving young force.

Source: HERA

Training of CSE peer educators in Macedonia

In February – March a big process of accreditation was implemented for peer educators in the field of Comprehensive sexual education by HERA Macedonia. A call was launched for interested young people and it was promoted on the social media. 21 people have applied and 17 were accepted. They have passed 2 days theoretical and interactive training in Skopje for all 7 components of the CSE. After this, they had 2 weeks of time for studying and consultation with the more experienced educators, the coordinator of the youth program and the program director of HERA. Afterwards, the examination process was organized for 3 days and the second part of this training has also covered workshops on communication and risk assessment. 14 new educators have been accredited after this process and already 2 of them are implementing the workshops in high schools in Skopje, where HERA has the pilot program for CSE peer education.

Source: HERA

Launch of the report analysis for the optional school subject Health Education - Sexuality Education component

Early April, Society for Reproductive and Sexual Education (SECS) member  of Astra Youth, in partnership with the Coalition for Gender Equality and Romania  and the Youth Council in Romania, organized the round table  where the outcomes of the analysis of the optional Health Education subject were discussed.

Besides the presentation of the report, diverse institution’s representatives discussed their views: the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research, Romania Youth Council, Youth and Sports Ministry, as well as representatives of World Health Organization and NGOs.

Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence are current realities in the Romanian society. International and national legislation recognizes the need for sexuality education in schools. But the report points out that sexuality education module included in the optional subject Education for Health isn’t a comprehensive sexuality education program. Shortcomings are evident in the subject’s content, teachers’ training, as well as monitoring and evaluation of the subject. Very few students participated in health education classes (6% in 2014-2015, according to the Ministry of Education), and even smaller number had access to sexuality education.

Other survey findings underline that combating gender violence isn’t included in the classes’ objectives and children don't learn prevention of sexual abuse and violence. During the classes extended family and traditional gender roles are described on the basis of gender stereotypes. Moreover, the information on disclosing HIV status or impact of stigmatization of HIV positive persons is not included in the content of lessons.

Teachers don’t recognize the diversity of individuals, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, norms and values of society. Preparation to teach sexuality education isn’t a part of the training of all teachers and the quality of teaching sexuality education isn’t taken into account.

The report is available in Romanian on SECS’s website here.

Source: Coalitiei pentru Egalitate de Gen


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