International Youth Program Journey4Life: A Lifelong Impact

In 2021, UNESCO IITE continued to support the Journey4Life youth program in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The Journey4Life training series was conducted by selected leaders – “champions.” During the program, both champions and their students received knowledge and skills that would allow them to take a fresh look at the youth problems and try to make positive changes. The main feature of Journey4Life is that it is not just a training programme but also a support programme. Here, young people aged 18 to 22 (champions) become role models for younger teens, learn to listen, help, guide, and inspire.

Journey4Life is a place where you can speak openly, and no one will judge you: people will listen, and most importantly, they will hear. It’s a safe space. I like talking about reproductive health, discrimination, bullying, defending our boundaries, and our rights. Probably, it is important to note that the program taught us that people are different, and everyone should be treated with respect.

Seytek Rajapov, Journey4Life participant

Today, the youth population is at its highest in history – over 1.8 billion. This means that each young person, with the necessary knowledge and skills, can change the world for the better in the future. At the same time, adolescents’ lack of knowledge about healthy lifestyles, safe behaviors, and psychological problems such as low self-esteem, self-doubt, guilt and shame can negatively affect their well-being. For example, in Kazakhstan, according to the results of a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Public Opinion (CIOM), among young people from 15 to 19 years old, 29.4% (one third) had sexual experience, the average age of sexual debut is 16.5 years, 44, 1% (almost half) have had more than one sexual partner, 47% of young people did not know the consequences of unsafe abortion and 46% did not know the consequences of contracting STIs.The introduction of interactive educational projects such as Journey4Life helps adolescents obtain reliable information about the value of health, master the skills for responsible and confident behavior, and start the transformation mechanism right now.

As part of the Journey4Life project in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, 33 new champions from different cities were admitted to the program. In addition, 14 people took part in the refresher training for continuing champions because the program assumes constant development.

My older sister is the previous year’s Journey4Life champion. It was always interesting for me to observe her progress, when she conducted training for peers, I also wanted to follow this path. For me, J4L is about change. It is a platform that allows you to tell what a safe relationship is, what HIV is, and much more. I see the changes that I bring to our community, and along with them, I change. Along with them, I grow.

Zhibek Madynova, Journey4Life participant

In 2021, over 900 adolescents took part in the Journey4Life programme in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Throughout the year, participants held events and live broadcasts on social media, reaching over 4,000 people. The broadcasts raised such important topics as sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, toxic relationships and personal boundaries, addictions, and bullying prevention. In addition, participants shared their own experiences and discussed videos about healthy lifestyle prepared by UNESCO IITE.

When you carefully prepare for a live broadcast, formulate the questions that you will discuss, it makes you think harder about the problem and sincerely try to resolve it.

Danila Pershin, Journey4Life champion

At the beginning and the end of the “journey,” participants took thematic tests to allow the mentors to evaluate how the programme influenced the level of knowledge and whether the teenagers’ attitudes towards decision-making in risky situations changed. The tests showed that the level of knowledge on HIV issues increased by an average of 15%. For example, in matters of HIV transmission, the level of knowledge increased from 72% to 99%. Before the programme’s start, only 62% of the participants knew that HIV is not transmitted through insect bites; after passing, 82% gave the correct answer. When asked about the safety of using a shared shower, toilet, pool, 66% gave the correct answer before and 88% after the Journey. On the question “where to go for advice on sexual and reproductive health?” the response rate rose from 55% to 90%. “Where to get tested for STIs and HIV?” – from 46% to 88%.

I was glad to meet the champions and participants. I learned a lot about personal boundaries, that they need to be protected, that we are all equal and unique. Such events are very important for the younger generation, and they can help to avoid many mistakes in the future.

These were ten amazing meetings! With wonderful, educated people. I made new friends, and I learned a lot of new and useful information!

The trainings are very informative. I learned a lot about HIV and STIs. The champions are very skillful in running the programme. Thank you very much for informing teens about these important topics! Cool project.

Journey4Life participants

The UNESCO IITE partners who implemented the programme activities were the “AIDS Foundation East-West in the Kyrgyz Republic” (AFEW Kyrgyzstan) and the “AIDS Foundation East-West” in Kazakhstan (AFEW Kazakhstan) – non-profit organizations with vast experience in the field of health protection and HIV prevention among young people. More details about the stages of the program in each country can be found here and here.

You can also find out about the progress of the program in the AFEW Kyrgyzstan Instagram channel and the Instagram channel.