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Astra youth

16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence in Bulgaria

ASTRA Youth member, Gender Alternatives Foundation (GAF) implements the “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence”[1] Campaign locally in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for a fourth consecutive year. Thus we express solidarity and support for the global efforts of thousands organizations and activists around the world in the eradication of violence against women. We are a major Campaign’s initiator in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. With the activities we say “NO to violence against women and girls – make education safe and accessible to all”!

Many women and girls do not have access to quality education due to existing gender stereotypes and obligations in the household. These challenges pressure girls to comply with domestic and social expectations ending up in early marriages, domestication, discrimination on the labour market and lower wages. Improving access to education and vocational activities of women and girls can break the “circle of poverty” and to encourage economic advancement and other global setbacks like war conflicts and health issues.

In our efforts to secure quality education and to eradicate gender stereotypes, the GAF team has prepared the following activities which we hope to become long-term initiatives:

1.Press conference – announcing the start of the Campaign

2.“Code: Empowerment” workshops

We will conduct several workshops on the basics of computer programming, entitled “Code: Empowerment”. With this activity, we want to encourage young people living in institutions to pursue quality educational opportunities and to further develop their interests in technology. We want to demonstrate to young people and especially to girls that coding is interesting, captivating and useful activity that can lead to sustainable professional development. Ultimately, we strive to show that the world of technology is open to all, irrespective of their age and gender.

 3.     Two months intensive courses on English Language and Information and Communication Technologies for vulnerable groups of women

4.     Street Campaign on the Main street in Plovdiv – 10 double sided advertisement canvases are allocated for the 16 Days Campaign. The activity is in partnership with ZONTA CLUB-Plovdiv. We will also disseminate brochures with the help of volunteers from Plovdiv University. 

Source: Gender Alternatives Foundation

[1] “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence” Campaign is a globalcampaign directed towards different types of violence against women and girls. It starts on November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and continues until December 10th (Human Rights Day). The dates were chosen to emphasize the links between ending gender-based violence and human rights principles and highlight that gender-based violence is an international human rights violation. 2015 marks 24 years from Campaign’s beginning which dates back to 1991. The initiative is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership.


WHO brief on HIV and young MSM

WHO has published a brief ‘HIV and young men who have sex with men’ (MSM). This technical brief is one in a series addressing four young key populations. It is intended for policy-makers, donors, service-planners, service-providers and community-led organizations. This brief aims to catalyse and inform discussions about how best to provide health services, programmes and support for young MSM. It offers a concise account of current knowledge concerning the HIV risk and vulnerability of young MSM; the barriers and constraints they face to appropriate services; examples of programmes that may work well in addressing their needs and rights; and approaches and considerations for providing services that both draw upon and build to the strengths, competencies and capacities of young MSM.

The brief is available here.

Source: WHO

How to talk about abortion: A guide to rights-based messaging

New publication by IPPF "How to talk about abortion: A guide to rights-based messaging" provides useful tips and advice on what to consider when developing materials relating to abortion. The content includes examples of positive, rights-based messages, and how to avoid using stigmatizing language and images. This guide can be used by educators, advocates, programmers, health professionals and policy makers, among others, to help inform the development of a wide range of communication materials.

Access it online here.

Booklet for young women living with HIV

IPPF has released a booklet ‘Girls Decide: What do I do if I live with HIV and…’. The booklet responds to needs and issues of young women living with HIV. It responds to questions about dating, relationships, sexuality and parenthood. The booklet offers practical information and advive on how to disclose the information on HIV status to family and intimate partner, safer sex practices and advice related to pregnancy and motherhood. It also provides information on contraception and abortion.

The booklet is accessible here.

Source: IPPF

Sexuality education policy briefs

The Federal Centre for Health Education BZgA in Germany, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia), and the World Health Organisation (WHO Regional Office for Europe) with input from various experts, including representatives from IPPF EN Member Associations, jointly develop a series of policy briefs on sexuality education.

The first two issues have now been released and answer the questions:

- What is sexuality education?

- And what is the impact of sexuality education?

The policy briefs are targeted to politicians and other decision makers, primarily in Europe and Central Asia, and provide them with short and comprehensive information on different issues regarding sexuality education. As an advocacy tool, the policy briefs promote good quality sexuality education as an effective life-course intervention which supports children and young people in protecting their sexual health and general well-being.

Policy brief No. 1 provides background information on the history, the benefits and the rights-based approach of sexuality education and further discusses myths and facts in this field. It argues that children and young people can greatly benefit from good quality sexuality education, which are age and development appropriate.

Policy brief No. 2 summarises the scientific evidence regarding the impact of sexuality education on the sexual health and well-being of children and young people. In this regard, it explores public health-related indicators but also so called “soft outcomes” of sexuality education, such as the development of a positive attitude towards sexuality, as well as skills in communication, decision-making and critical thinking. 

The briefs are accessible here.

Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Lithuania and poster exhibition opening

Family Planning and Sexual Health Association of Lithuania attended the meeting with the Ministry of Health of Lithuania on 7th of October. During the meeting Association’s exhibition of posters was presented and youth volunteers had an opportunity to talk about their position on SRHR of young people.

Youth group representatives together with Ministry of Health Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė had a discussion about some of the most problematic SRHR aspects: prices of the sexually transmitted diseases’ tests, contraception accessibility, long waiting time of consultation with specialist and medical staff skills on working and communicating with young people.

Ministry of Health agreed on some aspects of problems and that it has to be solved. She promised to work on these rights as much as she can, to create at least a possibility on improving SRHR for youth.

The Battle of Ministries: Romanian Sex Ed is Vividly Debated

Ministry of Health states that sex education lessons should be compulsory and promises to organize working meetings with the representatives of the Ministry of Education.

The news come surprisingly after the Ministry of Education declared only a few days ago that compulsory sex education will not be part of the Romanian curriculum. The Ministry of Health in Romania supports the introduction of compulsory sex education in schools, as mentioned in the official response to the joint letter signed by 60 SRHR –focused NGOs in Romania. The Ministry of Health said: ‘A legal framework must be ensured in order to support the introduction of sexuality education in the school curriculum as a compulsory subject. This can be achieved through inter-ministerial collaboration between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education’.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health promised to organize working meetings with the representatives of the Ministry of Education with the purpose of developing a long-term strategy for providing health education. The Ministry also expressed appreciation for the NGOs engagement in providing proper information on sexuality, taking into consideration Romania’s high adolescent birth rates, one of the highest in Europe. The Ministry believes that introducing compulsory health education can contribute to the prevention of STIs on both individual and collective levels.

The letter to Romanian decisionmakers was a result of the advocacy efforts carried out by a coalition of over 60 SRHR-focused NGOs. The initiative, named ‘Urgent call for sexuality education in schools’, demanded the introduction of compulsory sex ed in the national curriculum. This initiative was developed by the Coalition for Gender Equality and the Association Sex versus Stork. The call was endorsed by various Romanian institutions, including the Romanian Youth Council and the National Alliance of Student Organizations.

The letter also received the opposition of 18 Christian-orientated associations, among them the Association of Parents for Religion. Reacting to the letter, the conservative groups demanded the Ministry of Education ‘to protect the right of the family in front of those who want to impose compulsory sex education’. They also warned that ‘Sexuality is a natural predisposition that can be easily instrumentalized through ideological discourse and thus fall under the control of foreign interests, at which point it becomes destructive’.

On the other hand, at the beginning of the month, The Romanian Ministry of Education told the press that he has no intention to introduce compulsory sex ed in the national curriculum. The Ministry insisted that the already existing optional subject “Education for Health” covers enough aspects of human sexuality. The Ministry motivated his decision by affirming that a compulsory sex ed class would overload the students’ daily schedule thus making it impossible for young people to “understand anything at all”.


Consequences of hindering access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Armenia

Consequences of hindering access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Armenia

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are enshrined in various human rights treaties and conventions and should be thoroughly protected on an individual level. In Armenia women and girls are the primary targets of the existing inequalities and violence. Gender-based discrimination against women and existing stereotypes result in violation of human rights of women and limit their freedoms and participation in decision-making. Disappointingly, women are often limited even to make decisions in regard to their bodies and private lives.

Girls and women in Armenia face various sexual and reproductive health and rights issues mainly caused by the lack of sexual and reproductive health education, limited usage of and access to modern contraception, and harmful attitudes towards women and their sexuality, such as stigmatization of girls and women being sexually active before marriage. In the Armenian context sexuality is presented as a negative concept and sexual activities are associated with guilt, fear and disease especially for the unmarried girls and women. Sexuality education is not provided in secondary schools of Armenia, as it is considered to be spreading immorality and destroying Armenian traditional values. Family is not a safe space either for adolescent girls and young women to raise sexuality issues and questions, as parents are usually shy and unwilling to talk about sex-related issues with their children. As a result, youngsters are compelled to acquire information on these issues from insecure sources (friends, television, Internet etc.), which do not provide correct and accurate information.

As a result of these factors, it comes as no surprise that rates of unintended teen pregnancies remain high in Armenia. Girls and young women resort to clandestine abortion procedures, which pose threat to their health and lives. According to the health care experts, Armenian girls and women apply all possible means to do abortion- introducing different objects and tubes into uterus, drinking various herb drinks and other so-called “domestic methods”. These unsafe abortion methods cause serious health consequences for girls and women, even leading to death. The most common abortion method is inducing abortion at home with usage of a stomach-ulcer pill Cytotec, without the supervision of a trained medical personnel. In many cases the pill poses serious health risk, such as heavy bleeding, but for many girls and women it’s the only affordable method – a pill costs over a dollar, whereas a surgical procedure costs around 35-50 $. It’s a cost many girls and women can’t afford. Ultimately, they bear harmful consequences of neglection of their rights.

On the International Day of the Girl, I want to speak up for girls and women’s SRHR in Armenia. No sexuality education, limited access to modern contraception and safe abortion procedure put health and lives of Armenian girls and women at risk. Violation of their rights must end.

Written by Lusine Kosakyan

Society Without Violence, Armenia

International Day of the Girl video from Armenia

We - girls bring our reality

ASTRA Youth member organization, Society Without Violence from Armenia, has prepared a video on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl, ‘We-girls bring our reality’.

In the video, girls present most pressing women’s rights and social issues in Armenia, including SRHR issues, and promote the importance of education and empowerment of girls and women to build a brighter society. They also urge women to break the silence in order to have their rights respected and protected.

Reproductive Health Week in Georgia by HERA XXI

By the initiative of the Association HERA-XXI the campaign ‘Reproductive Health Week’ was conducted. The activities were dedicated to World Contraception Day (WCD) 26th September and 28th September Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. The main message of the campaign was “Your Life is Your Future”. 

The main activities of the campaign, which covered main Universities of Georgia and IDP communities, were conducted by focal points, youth leaders and young volunteers of the Association HERA-XXI. This event was focused on empowering young people to think ahead and consider contraception into their future plans, in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

Condoms in special design packages for youth and menstrual calendars for girls were distributed to students. HERA XXI youth leaders wearing T-shirts with action’s message were leading the informal talks with peers on relevant topics of SRHR. Also brochures and educational leaflets were distributed during the event.The campaign gained a wide media coverage, as organization’s representatives participated in many TV and radio programs where they discussed the importance of SRHR.

Additionally, at the end of the campaign presentation of non-formal educational program on SRHR issues - “It’s all one curriculum” and summary of the Week will take place. Presentation of non-formal educational SRHR program is organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia. 

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