Friday, August 17, 2007

Partnership News 1

The Turkish Website

‘‘A Youth Story”: UNFPA Turkey, Levi’s Turkey, MTV Turkey and Youth for Habitat Association Unite Forces for Turkey’s First National Youth Sexual Health Campaign"

by Selen Ors, Tunga Tuzer, and Elif Elci Carikci, UNFPA Turkey

Celebrities and pop-stars from Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Macedonia, Algeria, Morocco, Bulgaria, and Tajikistan contribute to the regional campaign of UNFPA and MTV International

A new partnership between UNFPA Turkey, Levi’s Turkey, MTV Turkey and the Youth for Habitat Association is fighting to inform and empower youth on sexual and reproductive health and rights; responsible and safe behavior; and to better exercise their rights.

45 percent of Turkey’s population is under 25 years old. The number of young people aged 15-24 is projected to be 12.8 million in 2007 and it is estimated that Turkey will continue to have this sizeable young population during the next 20-30 years. This is a demographic window of opportunity for Turkey since youth play a crucial role in the social and economic advancement of countries. Turkey needs to do its best to cultivate this potential.

Though only limited national-level data exists in Turkey on young people's health, attitude and behavioral problems, most studies indicate that the level of young people's knowledge on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is seriously low. This can lead to engagement in risky behavior involving sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, young people in Turkey have only limited access to accurate SRH information. Disturbingly Turkey is, at the same time, geographically positioned in a region where HIV/AIDS has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world.

Commitment of policy and decision makers is crucial in promoting the well-being of young people of Turkey, including their sexual and reproductive health. Only through effective advocacy can SRH education be integrated in schools’ curricula. In this respect, potential action would only be successful if young people demand such a policy change by themselves, however, most are not aware of, or empowered enough, to advocate for their SRH rights.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) believes youth-adult partnership is an integral part of all programmes targeting youth. Therefore, UNFPA decided to start with young people for young people. In order to reach more young people and raise their awareness, UNFPA needed partners which were perceived as “youth-friendly” by young people. For this purpose, MTV Turkey and Levi’s were the two perfect candidates.

UNFPA has had previous experience of partnership with MTV International at the Headquarters level through the global Staying-Alive Campaign promoting HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition, UNFPA led the Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER) with MTV International joining their efforts for a regional campaign called “ME” to reach young people in the Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Arab States.

Although MTV Turkey has started its broadcast life relatively recently, MTV’s regional broadcasts have been well-known by Turkish youth for a long time. Levi’s, similarly, has a good reputation among young people. Both of these private sector companies have the capacity to attract young people and motivate them to work for their rights.

A third partner, Youth for Habitat, is an NGO that has been working for young people’s participation in governance at the local level for years. Youth for Habitat is one of the biggest youth networks in Turkey and it has extensive experience in reaching young people and local decision makers in different regions of the country.

To get the project off the ground, UNFPA initiated contact with each partner to launch the youth SRH advocacy campaign. MTV Turkey agreed to provide air time for the campaign’s visual productions as well as assist in the design of campaign materials. Levi’s agreed to co-finance the campaign with UNFPA and donated USD90,000 for two years. Youth for Habitat, on the other hand, became the implementing partner to conduct local level activities and workshops for young people from 30 provinces.

The Campaign was launched on 12 April 2007 with a press conference followed by a party in Istanbul. The lead singer of the famous rock band “Kargo”, Koray Candemir, and journalist Defne Sarısoy from national TV channel NTV kindly accepted to become the spokespersons of the Campaign for two years. UNFPA Turkey Representatives, MTV Turkey Representatives, Levi’s Turkey representatives, Defne Sarısoy and Koray Candemir made speeches during the press conference.

The campaign will include the following aspects:

Sexual Health Information Web-Site: A Youth Story created a virtual setting for the youth to have good time with interesting interviews and quizzes, fun videos, games, and music while they are learning about sexual and reproductive health. A web-site was developed to help youth in making themselves visible and most importantly find answers to questions they could not ask anyone.

Youth Activities: “A Youth Story” aims to reach young people at every place where young people are present. “A Youth Story” participates in youth activities like school fests, sports organizations and youth festivals all around Turkey. Through leaflets and promotional materials, young people are informed about the Campaign and the web-site.

Advocacy Peer Education and Workshops for Youth: Trainings will be carried out to inform and empower young people from 30 provinces. Active young people will be trained on advocating for youth SRH and rights to help disseminate the information among youth. Young people will become advocates of SRH rights demanding access to much needed information and services.

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