Over the past five years, Albania’s Youth Voice Network of Organisations has been changing the landscape for youth-led health and education programmes.

Initially set up within the regional “Youth Voice” campaign with the support of the United Nations Population Fund, Albania’s Youth Voice Network of Organisations (YVNO) focuses on improving young people’s well-being and dignity through inclusive sex education workshops, including reaching out to groups who traditionally have the least access to these services.

As part of the global campaign for the inclusion of young people in the 2030 sustainable development agenda, YVNO is working towards all-inclusive education, human rights and gender equality, and the empowerment and participation of young people to play a part in their own futures. This includes marginalised groups like Roma, where according to the European Roma Rights Centre, over 60% of Romani women and girls in Albania didn’t finish primary school. There are also high rates of malnutrition in Romani families and many Roma communities lack access to basic infrastructure such as clean water, sanitation and electricity.

With Empower to Plan support, one of the Network’s members, Act for Society, will be working alongside Roma peer educators and community leaders to deliver a bespoke series of accessible workshops about sexual and reproductive and menstrual health at community centres in and around Tirana, the Albanian capital, a new report on access to healthcare and a podcast by young people, for young people about gender quality and the environment.

Through Empower to Plan, you can:

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Working in conjunction with the Tirana municipality, YVNO will also produce a study on menstrual health, sanitation and access to clean water. The resulting report will, they hope, lead to societal changes, with improved infrastructure for Albania’s most marginalised communities.

Chosen as the United Nations Population Fund’s implementing partner in the Balkans, the YVNO is leading change across Albania. As the group’s director, Andi Rabiaj, reflects:

I have witnessed and seen first-hand early marriages and many other harmful practices targeting girls. I felt this inner moral imperative to raise my voice and contribute to a society where, as a rule, it is not usual for men and boys to commit to seeking gender equality and gender justice.”

Andi Rabiaj, Director of YVNO

It is imperative that boys and men are part of the solution to achieve gender equality and justice too. Whether that’s using dance and music to discuss comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights, or creating informal spaces for youth to gather and share ideas on pregnancy, contraception and safe sex, Andi is full of practical ideas to empower the next generation.

Best of all, Andi and the Network recognise that the health of people and planet are intrinsically linked. Last year, Tirana was the European Youth Capital, the impetus for youth groups to come together and develop a Call to Action on gender-responsive solutions to climate change, in response to two of the greatest challenges of our time.

In order to save the environment, all of us must think collectively, rather than individually.

Mihallaq Qirjo, Director of the Resource Environmental Centre Albania

To further emphasise the connections between climate, gender and sexual health, the young people involved in this project will also develop a podcast series to share ideas about sexual and reproductive rights and environmental protection.

Please join us in supporting inclusive sex education in Albania: when young people are empowered to know their rights, individual and community wellbeing is enhanced and the future is brighter for everyone. As UNFPA Albania explains, “the best way to ensure sustainable development is to provide a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” Please support the Youth Voice Network of Organisations in Albania today to make this vision a reality.

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