With support from UNESCO IITE and the UNAIDS regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan continues its Journey4Life youth program in 2021.
This program has been ongoing for several years in 14 countries, including Russia, China, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Tanzania. The program follows the same approach in each country and includes a series of training sessions for young people aged 14 to 18. These training sessions aim to build the skills needed for confident behavior, establishing healthy relationships, and maintaining one’s sexual and reproductive health. The curriculum uses interactive strategies to promote social involvement of young people. The journey consists of 6 to 10 sessions progressing through three main stages:
- ME, where participants learn about themselves and their strengths;
- ME and YOU, where participants assess their behavior and attitudes towards other people;
- ME and SOCIETY, where participants explore existing issues in their community, their role in it, and how they can change society for the better.
UNESCO and UNAIDS launched the Journey4Life initiative in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in 2019 and later supported a hybrid version of the project in Kyrgyzstan in 2020/2021 to enable its adaptation to a lockdown environment. Creating an option for online involvement also made it possible to reach out to young people in remote regions of the country.
The implementing partner in Kyrgyzstan is the AIDS Foundation East-West in the Kyrgyz Republic (AFEW Kyrgyzstan), a non-profit organization with extensive experience in health promotion and prevention of HIV and other diseases. For many years, AFEW Kyrgyzstan has been working to involve young people in social and educational programs; it also operates a youth center offering help to teenagers in crisis.
Key actors of the program are Champions4Life – peer leaders who deliver the training and serve as role models for the young people they train. Before they begin facilitating the Journey4Life sessions as volunteers, the Champions receive comprehensive training. Each year, the program trains new Champions4Life to replace those who can no longer devote as much time to facilitating Journey4Life sessions due to increased academic workload at university or to getting employed after graduation.
In late April and early May 2021, with support from UNESCO IITE and UNAIDS, a new team of Champions4Life consisting of 12 young women and 10 young men from different regions of Kyrgyzstan was trained in Bishkek in a five-day workshop led by Alexander Kemalov and Polina Vescheva, certified international Journey4Life trainers from the Focus Media Foundation in Russia.
The training included teambuilding, meeting Champions4Life from other countries, learning how to promote the project in social media, and practicing session facilitation with feedback from the trainers. According to the participants, it was more than a training workshop but indeed a journey that unfolded as they were learning how to facilitate effective face-to-face and online sessions, how to talk to teens about HIV prevention and health promotion while inspiring them to live interesting and meaningful lives.
“The interactive training format was particularly important for me. We watched and discussed videos about healthy lifestyles and responsible behavior and studied information on SRHR, but we also learned effective communication and facilitation strategies. Each of us had an opportunity to facilitate a session on one of the Journey4Life topics, followed by feedback and valuable advice from our trainers. All of this has been really helpful in preparing us to become trainers and deliver information to teens in the best possible way,” according to Bilim Tyukebaeva, sharing her experience as a trainee.
Young people often lack accurate, comprehensive and objective information about growing up, about their health, sexuality, and relationships. Journey4Life allows them to learn more about sexual and reproductive health, consent, rights and boundaries and to receive accurate and reliable answers to many questions. Another important aspect is that the curriculum is peer-led and delivered by other young people who can identify with participants’ struggles and concerns, making it more likely that they will find a common language and engage in open, trusting communication.
“This training has prepared us to facilitate our own sessions, and I am now convinced that the best improvisation is a well-planned improvisation. On the final day, we worked with real people and did our best to apply what we had learned. Particularly valuable for me was the opportunity not only to receive general comments from the trainers but also to talk to them one-on-one. They advised each participant individually and were really open and friendly. I hope to meet with them again because I still have a lot to learn from them,” recalls Bektur Sultanov.
Next, the Champions will work in pairs to facilitate online and offline Journey4Life sessions for teenagers. A total of 60 rounds of online and offline sessions are planned before the end of 2021 for teens and young people aged 14 to 20. It means that more than 900 young participants will join the Journey4Life program.
In addition to this, AFEW Kyrgyzstan will host weekly webinars, contests and live broadcasts involving the Champions4Life, experts and opinion leaders. These events, mainly targeting youth not yet covered by the Journey4Life program, will focus on reproductive health, social norms and empowering young people to improve their financial situation and to get an education. The sessions will use educational videos on reproductive health and relations, developed with support from UNESCO IITE and posted on the Sanarip Sabak educational portal.
This content will support the Journey4Life program participants in building the knowledge and self-confidence needed to take good care of themselves, their health and their communities.
See AFEW Kyrgyzstan’s instagram for more information about the Journey4Life program in Kyrgyzstan.
See more about Journey4Life in Russia here.