News

Y-Peer Moldova brings sexual health education to vulnerable youth

2 November 2015
Too many young people in the Republic of Moldova lack access to sexual and reproductive health information. Tudor (left) and other youth advocates are working the change that. © UNFPA Moldova

CHISINAU, the Republic of Moldova – “It is not easy at all for me to live alone,” Tudor told UNFPA. He has been living by himself since he was 13 years old, when the last of his family members moved abroad to work.

His story is a common one. Many children in the Republic of Moldova are forced to become independent at a very early age. According to some estimates, about 100,000 children in the country have been left behind by migrant parents.

But conditions can be difficult even for young people who have not been left behind. Youth unemployment is three times higher than unemployment among older adults, according to the Youth Gap Index. Young people often resort to unstable work or jobs in precarious environments.

Tudor works with Y-Peer to educate other young people about their sexual and reproductive health. "They feel ashamed and alone," he said. © UNFPA Moldova

Youth also have significantly higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Only about one third of young people, aged 15 to 24, have comprehensive knowledge about HIV, according to a 2012 survey. The reason behind these figures, Tudor explained to UNFPA, is that most adolescents lack access to accurate information about sexual and reproductive health.

Now 20, Tudor has committed to making sexual and reproductive health information readily available to other young people.

The making of a youth leader

On his own in the village of Vatici, Tudor learned to become self-sufficient.

“It is not an easy task to wake up in the morning and think about all the household chores,” he said, “but it is a reality and a useful life lesson.”

At an early age, he became involved in youth activities, at one point gathering a group of adolescents together to address the needs and concerns of other young people.

Soon, he joined Y-Peer Moldova, a youth peer education network supported by UNFPA. Y-Peer members reach out to other young people about services and opportunities, and also provide information about sexual and reproductive health.

Over time, Tudor has become one of the group’s most active volunteers.

“I gained experience in communicating with young people. Unfortunately, many of them are misinformed,” Tudor said. “Some of them feel embarrassed to discuss topics particularly related to their reproductive health. They feel ashamed and alone.”

Dynamic youth offer hope for the future

There are some 300 Y-Peer trainers in the country who regularly hold education sessions for young people, teaching them about their bodies and health, including how to keep themselves safe from STIs and avoid unintended pregnancies. This Y-Peer education method has been approved by the Ministry of Health.

Y-Peer is also working to raise awareness of the ministry’s 37 youth-friendly health centres, which provide young people with counselling, information, family planning and medical services.

“I have met very dynamic and talented young people in Moldova, and that makes me believe that there is a lot of potential for prosperity in the future,” said Ian McFarlane, UNFPA’s representative in the country.

He added, “With a healthier and more productive young generation, society as a whole will benefit and some of the root causes of poverty and exclusion will be addressed.”