Blog about the UNFPA Youth Hackaton in Istanbul

“In my personal life I came to realize that knowing what’s right for you does not always mean making the right choices. I’ve been lucky living in The Netherlands where me and my friends received sexuality education both in school and at home. Despite this, I noticed that friends were having unsafe sex, even though they knew exactly what the risks were. I wondered what the reason behind this was, and when I started working for Dance4Life they gave me the answer: people’s decisions are not always rational, but often based on emotions. Therefore, we have to move away from only educating people to empowering them more holistically, taking into account the social-emotional aspects of sexual health and personal leadership.”

This is the story I’ve shared during my participation in the Regional Youth Hackathon in Istanbul, Turkey, organized by UNFPA. The event discussed how we can more meaningfully engage young key population groups in the EECA (Eastern Europe Central Asia) region, so that we can reach them better and achieve more impact. The EECA region is the only region in the world where the HIV epidemic continues to spread rapidly, which is also the reason why Dance4Life is currently turning its attention more towards this region.

Creative ideas to increase empowerment
We celebrate UNFPA’s initiative to organize this Regional Youth Hackathon, especially since it’s been such a creative space with lots of opportunity for brainstorming and building prototypes of potential solutions. One of the prototypes we came up with, was a design lab where young people can design ways to measure their increase in empowerment through reflecting on their emotions! Such an approach resonates well with Dance4Life’s expertise on behavourial change in sexual health programming.

Social-emotional learning essential for change
One of the main messages we shared is that improving sexual health outcomes requires behavioural change, and behavioural change requires taking into account young people’s social-emotional learning. Therefore this needs to be included in delivery of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). We look forward to continuing our work for young people and young key populations in the EECA region!

Tess Pairon works at Dance4Life as Partner and Network Manager