Reproductive Health and Peer Education

Reproductive Health and Peer Education

Reproductive Health and Peer Education

Reproductive Health and Peer Education for Palestinian Youth in Lebanon
 
Background: 

This project was launched in the year 2006 in partnership with an Italian NGO Ricerca e Cooperazione (RC) Lebanese Family Planning Association (LFPA), and the National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT) with co-funding from the European Commission in Lebanon.

Location and Beneficiaries of the whole project:

The project was implemented in the following six Palestinian Refugee camps in Lebanon:
In Beirut area Burj Barajneh & Shatila camps.
In the North area Beddawi & Nahr El-Bared camps. 
In the South area Burj Shemali, Rashidieh and El-Buss camps. 

Estimated number of beneficiaries: 115,906.

Rational: 

Reproductive and sexual health with its related problems are not genuinely approached topics in the Arab region, typically considered as a very sensitive taboo that cannot be openly addressed.

For NISCVT, this particular project was in the first place a challenge to the organization's capabilities in tackling such a controversial issue and presenting it within a conservative community. Nevertheless, the challenge was accepted and the decision was taken to initiate the first step. After almost three years now, the achievements reached proved to a great extent that such a decision was not only right, but also successful due to the great need among the youth to know, realize and practice their right to choose, handle responsibilities and create the needed change to build a developed and healthy future. 

In fact, there is great difficulty in finding any reliable data and figures concerning the real situation of the Palestinian youth on reproductive and sexual health issues. However, through the experience of NISCVT along 38 years of work with the Palestinian youth, many discovered facts were related mainly to the lack of knowledge and access to reliable information resources and miss conceptions embodied in the local culture leading some youth to get involved in problematic and risky behaviors.

Objectives: 

The main objective of the project is to provide a very new service to a vulnerable target population through human rights driven and holistic approach aimed at improving the overall physical, psychological, mental and emotional well-being of the Palestinian youth.
Provide the youth with information on reproductive and sexual health (SRH) in an informal manner and raise awareness among parents and adults in direct contact with the youth such as teachers, social workers and others.
Provide the youth with friendly non-judgmental services including treatment and counseling inside our youth advisory centers.
Improve reproductive health status among the target group and contribute in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS.
Enhance a more gender-balanced relation among the target group, and address major problems among the girls such as early and kin marriages.
Contribute to a better change in attitude and behavior among the youth, as direct beneficiaries, concerning SRH issues and among other community components, as indirect beneficiaries. 

Implemented Activities:

Since 2006 the project has implemented diverse activities approaching different groups inside six Palestinian camps:
A questionnaire survey was conducted among a sample of 1500 youth, from six camps, measuring the level of their knowledge and the gaps that need intervention.
Intensive training for a group of field workers chosen from inside the camps as part of the working team in the project.
Group information, this included health and wellbeing promotion sessions targeting young people, parents, educators and other caregivers.
In coordination with UNRWA (the main education and health provider for the Palestinians), a series of workshops were organized to the teachers, school counselors, doctors, midwives and nurses addressing the youth physical and psychological problems and needs, also introducing the referral system to the Advisory Centers.
Training of different NGO's personnel working with the youth.
An educational game was produced dealing with SRH, and was distributed to all NGOs, with playing sessions organized inside the schools, where it was met with great interest.
Four youth advisory centers were established inside four camps, providing treatment, counseling and information.
A peer education program for the youth was organized with a complete training and advocacy activities for peer groups printed in a special manual
A website was launched tackling all SRH issues, youth needs and questions.
Campaigns inside the camps on different issues related to SRH in coordination with other NGOs.
Four video clips were produced with resourceful participation by the youth.

Main Results:

6718 patients benefited from the reproductive health clinics of the centers.
173 awareness sessions for 2733 participants. 
Residential workshops for 74 peer leaders. 
Residential workshops for 10 social workers. 
Workshops for 51 social workers. 
The major positive result in our opinion was breaking the barrier surrounding the sensitive issue and overcoming the fear from tackling related topics, which encouraged other NGOs and UNRWA to participate actively in the provided training and demanding more training on some specific subjects.
There was high interest among the families mainly mothers in attending the awareness sessions and their active role in the discussions and efforts to understand their children's cycle of physical and emotional development were very impressive. 
Health promotion campaigns were organized in 9 camps and population gatherings in cooperation with other NGOs.
RH and related topics discussed inside schools for the first time.
Increased acknowledgement of young people's SRH problems needs and rights at all institutional and societal levels in the Palestinian community.
Increased knowledge among the youth re consequences of risk behaviors (including HIV), violence and substance abuse.
Topics such as sexual abuse, incest, early and kin marriages became issues of common debate, although there is great need for continuous work to reach concrete changes on the ground.
A peer education program developed enabling the youth to carry correct information to their peers.
A gender-balanced approach enabled boys and girls to participate in all activities and express their views on equal basis.

Current situation: 

Currently the advisory centers are still providing its services.

Future Perspectives:

In spite of all the above achievements inside a conservative community, what have been reached so far is very encouraging but far from being enough. The work of the past three years was mainly to level the ground and gain the people's trust so that we can start building advanced programs on the achieved knowledge to reach the anticipated change in attitude and behavior.

It is most essential to continue awareness activities inside the community on all levels. 

There is an actual need to reach other groups such as fathers the most influential social faction, and groups who are already involved in risk behaviors; this will be the hardest phase of the project.

Working inside a marginalized, poor and conservative community, we are aware that addressing social change is a long and painful process that will take years and generations to realize concrete results. This will definitely face resistance from the out dated traditional deeply rooted practices, but choosing the youth as our target is the best lucrative investment for future and for the coming change.