Do you know that myths about interruption of pregnancy that surround young people have a huge impact to the larger group of them?
The topic of abortion remains absent from most comprehensive sexuality education programs, even in places where abortion is legal. This diminishes young people’s ability to avoid the dangers of unsafe abortion, to make fully informed choices, and to exercise their right to safe, legal abortion.
It’s essential that young people have information about interruption of pregnancy, understand the laws in their context, and know how to access safe services.
During two days, in the frame of YATAS (Youth Activism to Tackle Abortion Stigma) in our youth center “Po” we talked about abortion stigma and trained young volunteers on how to tackle such stigma in their community.
Young people used balloons to share their messages on how to reduce abortion stigma.
#Idecide #freechoice #abortionisnotacrime
We legally own the right to interrupt a pregnancy, I support it and I think we should all support it!
The reasons why abortion stigma exists in Albanian society are many and deeply rooted in our culture. As a consequence of stigma, women don’t feel free to decide whether or not to continue an unintended pregnancy, and most of the times stigma leads women towards unsafe abortions, risking the loss of their lives. This must change and it is us young people who can initiate change, by ourselves, by the education of our social group, our family, and further our whole society because we can bring about that change.
We legally own the right to interrupt a pregnancy, I support it and I think we should all support it!
The times that we, young people, even discuss with each other about abortion are not numerous and are always triggered by any story we hear. Some time ago a friend of mine who already supports women’s right to interrupt a pregnancy told me:
“In my community, a girl who was married at a young age and had a happy marriage at first glance, as I saw from the outside, also had a daughter, but one day by accident i learned that she has had abortion more than once. At first I stigmatized her, judged her badly in my mind, I didn’t like the action at all, and I couldn’t conceive how a girl / woman could do it without any reason. Some time passed and I accidentally met the girl myself and realized that her marriage was not as happy as it seemed from the outside, I met her again the other day and she told me that her husband’s family lead her to the interruption of pregnancy only because the child would be female and since they already had a daughter they had to have a son. “They told me that we Albanian people want to have a son to carry on with family name. “-she expressed. From this I came to realize that the girl, fearing being stigmatized, did not mention her abortions or the reason behind it, but were the rumors of neighborhood residents from where we learned about it. ”
After this story and many other discussions about the legal right we have in Albania for interruption of pregnancy, the right to maintain our privacy on such matters, the solidarity we have to show to women, etc., my friend managed to change her attitude on interruption of pregnancy and thus many other young people can change.
We young people do not seem sufficiently engaged for such causes because we believe that one’s attitude toward such topics does not change. But I think it changes!!
The key to this is to educate young people, as well as, our attempt to change this stigma toward abortion should extend to other generations where young people should begin to discuss freely with their family about the topic and persuade them to change their attitude. So step by step, the stigma about abortion starts fading in our society.
A story by K.Dh, volunteer near ACPD
I believe that young people’s awareness about their sexual and reproductive health and rights allows safe and healthy lives. Giving a voice to young people helps to create active and conscious citizens capable of standing up for their beliefs.
Comprehensive sexuality education is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.
Too many young people receive confusing and conflicting information about relationships and sex, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. This has led to an increasing demand from young people for reliable information, which prepares them for a safe, productive and fulfilling life. When delivered well, CSE responds to this demand, empowering young people to make informed decisions about relationships and sexuality and navigate a world where gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) still pose serious risks to their health and well-being. Equally, a lack of high-quality, age- and developmentally-appropriate sexuality and relationship education may leave children and young people vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviors and sexual exploitation.
CSE plays a crucial role in addressing the health and well-being of children and young people. Applying a learner-centered approach, CSE not only provides children and young people with age-appropriate and phased education on human rights, gender equality, relationships, reproduction, sexual behaviors risks and prevention of ill health, but also provides an opportunity to present sexuality with a positive approach, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility and reciprocity.
The Aulona center staff together with the volunteers organized a three-day summer school in May 2019 with the theme “Comprehensive Sex Education for a Promising Life!” at the Diamond Hill Hotel in Vlora. Twenty young people including youth from vulnerable groups received education on how to avoid risky behaviors, how to build healthy social and intimate relationships; how to think critically, how to take care of themselves; and where to get youth-friendly services for better health and a happier life.
During the practice sessions the participants developed some plans for their lives. These plans included school enrollment; avoidance of early marriage; protection against unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV / AIDS; use of contraception, avoidance of drug or alcohol use, etc.
High-school teacher Nevjana Muça of Tirana says it is getting easier to discuss sexuality education in schools. “In the past, I have asked students to discuss certain topics, and have had them reply that their fathers don’t allow them to talk about that. I don’t encounter those kinds of difficulties so much now, though taboos unfortunately still persist,” says Muça. “We emphasize to all parents, teachers and students that the more informed young people are when they start sexual relationships, the better and healthier these relationships will be, and the more responsible, mature and prepared these young people will be in life.”
Oriana Osmani, a mother from Tirana, says she wanted her now 18-year-old daughter “to know as much as possible about sexuality education.” Even though it was awkward when her daughter was younger, she chose not to turn off the TV when a sexual scene came on in a movie, and instead tried to talk openly about what was being shown on screen. “I didn’t have any experience like that with my own mother, so it was difficult for me,” Osmani says. “I believe it will be easier for my daughter to talk to her children about sex when she becomes a parent.”
The sexual and reproductive health lessons introduced at Marjo Rabiaj’s school in Ballsh inspired him to get trained as a peer educator himself. He volunteers for a youth organization that promotes youth issues, including healthy lifestyles, sexuality education and youth participation. “I love spreading the word among my peers that every young person has the right to live a healthy life and build a safe future, and that sexuality education helps us do that,” Rabiaj says.
The frank discussions in school also helped Rabiaj and his girlfriend talk more openly about sex and their relationship, he says. “We had so many questions, which were now being answered,” he says. “We feel more at ease now, we talk openly, and I think we have a healthy sexual life now and are protecting each other and helping each other stay healthy.”
BALLSH, Albania – It’s not always easy talking to young people about sexual and reproductive health in the classroom.
“Whenever a question about our bodies was raised in biology class, there was laughter and whispering; some students turned red and others giggled,” says Marjo Rabiaj, 17, of Ballsh, a small town in southern Albania. “So sometimes the lesson was not taught at all, because the teacher said we were too immature to discuss such topics. I was so curious and eager to learn but since these subjects were called ‘shameful,’ I couldn’t discuss them with anybody.”
When Rabiaj and his girlfriend first had sexual intercourse, they did not use any method of contraception and they found themselves troubled by the experience.
“We had lots of fear, doubt and uncertainty about whether it was right or wrong, what could we expect afterwards, what others would think if they found out,” he says. “We decided to keep it a secret and didn’t talk about it anymore. I never even asked her how she felt about having sex.”
But one day, a teacher announced that Rabiaj’s school would be participating in a pilot programme to introduce comprehensive sexuality education in schools in Albania. The teacher had received special training on the subject, and had brought in two young people, trained peer educators from Tirana, to help. There was some laughing and blushing at first, Rabiaj recalls, “but soon we started to have several classes on topics that we never spoke about before. And all of our classmates started to feel more relaxed.”
The teacher and the peer educators who came to Rabiaj’s school are among hundreds who have been trained as part of a partnership between UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Albanian Ministry of Education and Sports. UNFPA has been working with the ministry and other partners in Albania for nearly a decade to institutionalize age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education as part of the curriculum for 10- to 18-year-olds in Albanian schools. A thorough curriculum reform, including a monitoring system to ensure the quality of teaching and materials, is underway with a target date of 2020 for full implementation.
“Sexuality education is a very important part of the health and life-skills education of young people,” says Zamira Gjini, director of the Pre-university Education Department at the Ministry of Education and Sports. “It is the duty of the school to ensure this education, and to raise awareness among parents, social-services agencies and local government about this and related topics, including keeping girls in school and avoiding child marriage.”
“Every young person has the right to live a healthy life and build a safe future, and sexuality education helps us do that.” –Marjo Rabiaj, 17, a peer educator in Ballsh, Albania
Albania has made remarkable progress in developing and implementing comprehensive sexuality education at pre-university level. A ‘Positioning Paper on Comprehensive Sexuality Education for Young People in Albania’ is approved in 2012 and from 2015 Comprehensive Sexuality Education started to be implemented in schools. However, the SE program has not been developed to reach out to the children/young people from key populations in informal settings. Many young key populations are not in school and are not reached by school-based programs.
There is widespread opposition to school SE in the country. Parents, caregivers, community members and teachers as well see SE as a factor leading to “early” sex. They argue that it runs against the Albanian culture, that schools should promote moral values instead of implementing SE. They feel that SE might be okay for young people but not for children and young people at young ages
Training of health-care providers should include a human rights based approach to addressing the needs of young persons from key populations. For example, one of the objectives of the MISP is reducing HIV transmission, and planning for comprehensive SRH care (integrated into primary health care where possible). Trainers can include information on young key populations into this topic in order to increase providers’ capacity to offer stigma-free, respectful services and make them aware of the issues facing young sex workers, young MSM, young people who inject drugs, etc
In June 2017, UNFPA Albania launched the establishment of the “Media Platform on Sexual and Reproductive Health”. This initiative is creating a network of journalists that collaborate on issues pertaining to SRH, including gender-based violence/harmful practices and healthy lifestyles, with a special focus on young people and to support one another to report on SRHR topics that receive less coverage, or are reported on in ways that reinforce stereotypes and discrimination. Through this SRH media platform, journalists will find support and opportunities to share ideas, news, stories, data and open debates in the media about comprehensive SE, family planning and use of modern contraceptives, STIs and HIV, unintended pregnancies, early/child marriages and harmful practices, teenage pregnancies and abortions and influence on education and well-being of young people, youth empowerment and youth participation in decision-making affecting their lives, fight against violence and gender inequalities and much more.
Always, within the time frame of 23 years something ordinary fills my day with the idea that Im not alone. Many people around the owrld, somebody’s gone and somebody trying to normalize the day expressly have one thing in common. All unfortunate, perhaps from the first day of their lives and others along the way have been presented with a result where being positive makes you negative for society in some way. I am positive from the first day of my life, full of 23 years spent with something new and old. Every day that passes is like the first day of the story. Every smile, every encounter, every hug, every moment, every season, everything passively realizes that it was not born with you, except something that is nothing new and nothing old. Love and illness have exactly something in common to me. I was born out of the love of two parents who were affected by HIV / AIDS, and I was the only one providing security in an unknown world in which we all lived together for a while. And like anything where love and illness come together in a story, one has to be sacrificed for the sake of love from illness. But the painful thing is that even in sacrifice there is still nothing new and nothing old. Still there lay the pain of my father’s escape from life from a disease that is a fading of love and will be there even after his death. By this time around the 9years old, apart from the fact that I learned naively that I was a member of the unknown HIV-AIDS world in that time, I challenged myself that in a family with many “positives” inside, we cannot push each other up till the end to the next sacrifice but we can challenge that we have the opposite of how we experience a day or a history of being HIV positive. Of my entire family that consists of my father’s life today, only two divine and earthly creatures are uninfected and unidentified within our unknown world. One of them is my sister who was born when my parents were not infected yet (a difficult story to get started) and the other creature is my dog Ringo with whom I spent and still do 9 wonderful years (I believe it is understood which creature is divine). Remaining on my journey through many struggles are my mum – a divine human being, and my two little brothers who are twins with each other – two creatures who, due to the mythicism that the concept of twins holds, may be divine for many cultures. I’m nothing new and nothing old, nothing more than a teenager studying Philosophy and living in Tirana, Albania, engaged with the Albanian Association of People Living with HIV / AIDS, and the Albanian Center for Population and Development / Center PO, making my continued contribution. Representing one of the most vulnerable groups in Albania, young people living with HIV, I have seen my participation as a contribution to reducing and removing stigma, discrimination and social conformity for vulnerable and marginalized groups, especially like me. Every voice and contribution from young people has a major impact on the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive health. Of great importance has been my contribution to the design of a Key Population Tool, proposed by the Albanian Center for Population and Development / Center PO within the framework of Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe (YSAFE). In my point of view, the tools for People with Disabilities (PLWD) and Vulnerable Populations are very important instruments and should prevent discrimination and enjoy the rights to health, treatment and care. I have never felt bad about being sick even though I never feel like it. I owe nothing to my father or my mother that I was born with a positivism rooted within me without their desire and knowledge. I have a story where the outside world has collided with the ignorance surrounding this disease and nothing else. The world owes itself to understanding that where there is a disease there should be no compassion but love. In dozens of intimate and social relationships with people I have realized that it is not enough just to know about this disease and just that. You have to learn to love life because this disease is nothing new and nothing old nowadays than a routine procedure for the degree of danger or difficulty that the patient or individual faces. Stigma interacts more with the virus than with other components of life. My story and I believe every story on this topic is addressed to the uninfected world with people who may know someone, relative or not who is infected with HIV / AIDS. Unconsciously the first moment a person is informed has a tendency to move toward opening up to the world as sick this time. He does not think about dealing with himself and the disease at all but only about other people’s approach to a generally prejudiced illness. As a child, prone to the fact that I had seen him die from HIV-AIDS, I thought I was going to die when I found out that I was sick. I put my hand on my heart as I was crying and at a childish agreement I realized that while still beating, I was out of danger to life. Today, as a 23-year-old, I just try to protect all the people around me from any minimal risk my modest illness can carry. I do not claim to be a success story, as long as I have simply done the duty of love for life, music, books, cinematography, sports, and a myriad of other things that I am still exploring. I lived, nothing more. In every country of the world there are people who have died from this disease and still live, just like in Albania. We fight to keep the number of casualties from rising and love to spread in simple human stories. For those of you reading this story is nothing new since it was part of it now, and to me it is always old as every day is a more reason to live and to give love and laughter. My name is Klevis Hoxhaj and I have been HIV positive since the first day of my life. Nothing new, nothing old.
Do you know how much can you benefit from being a volunteer at Albanian Center for Population and Development (ACPD) ?
When I came back from my European Voluntary Service in Poland, in 2017, a friend of mine recommended me to participate in a training course about advocacy on SRH, hosted by ACPD. Sincerely, the working area of ACPD made me hesitant, if I should join the organization or not. I am a Muslim practitioner, even though I am not practicing the Muslim dress code. I was thinking the organization values are against the Islam values that I go for. However, I decided to take this as an opportunity, recognizing the high profile of ACPD in country, and the recommendation given by my friend. That time I never thought this would be the greatest opportunity in my life for building my knowledge on reproductive care, women’s and men’s rights for reproductive freedom, an opportunity which positively would influence my development and my future career.
After this training I participated in the YSAFE Annual Meeting in 2018. Afterwards, I continued to be part of ACPD programs on CSE, reframing, advocacy and service provision. It was very impressive to attend the first training on reframing. My mind was enlightened by new frames on abortion, comprehensive sexuality education and contraception. I have to confess that Islam is my inspiration and one of my colons of my life. Though after these events, I started to connect the moral values of family and health care ACPD stands for, with those of Islam and internalizing all of these values inside me. I started to believe that women are entitled to be free from reproductive coercion and every form of authority that tries to stop this is a form of coercion and violation; children need literacy for healthy intimate bonding relationships; family needs reproductive care for a healthy and dignified life.
A couple of months later I was nominated by my MA as Youth Representative in the Regional Executive Committee of IPPF-EN and elected as a winner. This position makes me proud of myself, simultaneously gives me much more responsibilities to represent my MA and other youths in this important governing body of IPPF.
In May, I was invited to talk about family planning in a morning program at a national TV channel, Ora News. I used the frame women’s right to be free from reproductive coercion and the video had a great reach on FB page of ACPD. My first public appearance on media was very exciting, so I intend to repeat it. Next time I will take with me other ACPD activists to give echo to the amazing work being done on literacy for SE, contraception care and reproductive freedom.
Now I am engaged as a leading youth activist of advocacy initiatives for CSE and abortion. Simultaneously I am very keen on enhancing the base of ACPD supporters, including young people from the Muslim community. Already 4 of my friends have started to come over and visit the ACPD center. We, activists of ACPD are totally committed to put forward the achievements with regards to reframing.