Likhaan: Taking it to the Streets
The slums of Metro Manila are not easy places for anyone to live. This is true especially for young people, whose yearning for the “good life” they see presented in the media runs up against the grinding poverty in which they live. It is in these neighbourhoods where Inter Pares’ counterpart, Likhaan, has formed a strong and vibrant youth organization known as PiLaKK Youth.
Young people in these communities face diverse and major challenges. Teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gender-based violence, and teen prostitution are all serious problems, unfolding within a strict Catholic culture, which makes even talking about such issues very difficult. Undeterred by a very conservative political and religious climate, PiLaKK Youth have decided to discuss sexual health in a more public way. They have organized community parades with banners and songs, shouting out for all to hear that these problems can no longer be hidden, and inviting youth to talk about them more openly. Last year, during national debates on a reproductive health bill, the PiLaKK Youth campaign was documented and aired on national television. They also distributed free condoms to side-step store owners, who often report youth to authorities when they buy condoms. Though schools are prohibited from teaching young people about reproductive health, youth leaders met with secondary school principals to request workshops on the issue. In most cases they were yelled at and told to leave, but in one school they did succeed, and a workshop was provided.
Recognizing the difficulty youth have in getting information on reproductive health, PiLaKK Youth is using information technology to open up a dialogue with their peers. They created a hotline where young people could send anonymous text messages from their mobile phones. Questions about contraception, STIs, and even relationships are answered by youth leaders, in consultation with the medical staff of Likhaan. They have also established a blog where they keep youth up-to-date on issues and campaigns, and where teenagers can read the stories of their peers and enter comments and questions. The use of technology is complemented by community discussions, allowing youth to talk to other youth about the problems they face.
Inter Pares’ long-term support for Likhaan has contributed to the creation of this vibrant youth organization. These strategies required the bold energy of youth to succeed in drawing public attention to sexual health. Attitudes change slowly and the young people of PiLaKK know that, but they are convinced that even small changes have an impact today and will benefit youth tomorrow.
|Reviewed November 01, 2009||Publishing Policies|