Photo © ACPD, Peer education session in Albania
Young people from marginalised groups in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are being harmed by high levels of violence, discrimination and stigma, and it is enormously difficult for them to access sexuality education or the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care they need.
ACPD – IPPF’s member in Albania - has put in place networks and training programmes that have enabled hundreds of stigmatised young people to develop knowledge and life skills that support their health and well-being.
Young people who are sex workers, are part of the LGBTI community, inject drugs, live in poverty or rural communities, or are Roma, are the most likely to be denied sexuality education and access to non-judgmental sexual and reproductive health care. But ACPD has succeeded where many have failed before in reaching marginalised young people and having a positive impact on their lives.
Through sexuality education, ACPD and its partners have successfully equipped 785 young people with crucial life skills, building their knowledge about sexuality, relationships and safe sex, and strengthening their ability to make decisions, communicate, negotiate and plan for the future.
As a result of this work, 500 young people have been cared for through ACPD clinics and/or other care providers in their communities. They have started to visit clinics, for example to seek condoms and counselling and ask to be tested for HIV. They talk about how they have changed their behaviour as a result of sexuality education programmes, and feel empowered to build healthier and safer relationships, based on equality and respect. One young man gave this feedback:
"I'm gay and a sex worker, which makes me feel judged twice over. In everyday life people sometimes call you “abnormal” and there are times when you go to a doctor or to get a HIV test, and they start using embarrassing labels which stop you from going back for care.
I was invited to participate in ACPD's comprehensive sexuality education school. I learnt about my sexual rights, my right to access stigma-free services. I learnt about having safe sex and always using a condom. Now I have the courage to ask my clients to use a condom when they don’t want to. Knowing my rights gives me the courage to speak up for non-judgmental and friendly SRH services when I go to a health care centre.
This school has improved my physical and mental health, my life in general. Sexuality education can empower us!"
ACPD also organised sessions and trainings to empower marginalised young people to educate their peers and to advocate for their rights to sexual and reprodutive health care, for example showing them how to speak for themselves in decision-making spaces. Ensuring that stigmatised young people have a voice is essential to securing better care and support for their needs in the long-term.
In an effort to reduce the harm caused by discrimination and violence from people in positions of authority (like the police), ACPD has also counselled stigmatised young people on how to deal with these hard issues.
Marginalised young people can become almost entirely reliant on health care provided by NGOs as they are abandoned by those closest to them, discriminated against by people who have a duty of care, and even vilified in some circles of society.
IPPF EN and our partners will continue to ensure free, safe and dignified lives for all, especially those facing the greatest challenges.