Youth: For Sonam Dema, a third year BA student of Taktse college, sexual reproductive education and the health rights of women and girls is not a matter to shy away from but one to discuss openly so that with better understanding, the right decisions are made.

Sonam Dema is attending a two-day national workshop on sexual reproductive health rights and sustainable development goals at Bajo higher secondary school, Wangdue along with 80 other youth members of “Y-Peer”, Youth Peer Education Network Bhutan and 10 facilitators.

The workshop is being organised by the youth centre division of the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) of the education ministry.

During the two-day workshop the students from various high schools, training institutes and colleges shared their experiences and discussed the 17 sustainable development goals. One of the main focuses of the discussion was on sexual reproductive health rights.

The young participants discussed youth issues and interpreted causes and solutions. They also discussed ways to prevent youths from becoming victims of domestic violence, sexual abuses and sexual based violence. The workshop is more focused on the rights of girls. It also highlights how to maintain hygiene, body health ,issues concerning HIV and other sexuality transmitted diseases.

Sonam Dema said she intends to further advocate these matters among friends after returning to college.

DYS chief programme officer, Rinzin Wangmo, said in most cases youths do not prefer to discuss sexual matters openly, and so are not aware of the existence of adolescent friendly health services. Some despite knowing about it do not consult organisations that provide such services in fear of being exposed.

She said through such youth-peer education, young people are encouraged to discuss sexual matters and their health rights openly and to avail available services and also help them make the right decisions about their health.

Rinzin Wangmo said Y-Peer, Youth Peer Education Network Bhutan is a resourceful youth network pioneered by the United Nations Populations Fund, which was formally founded in 2012 and led by DYS.

Since its establishment, several local networks in colleges and institutes in different dzongkhags were formed. Y-PEER Bhutan today comprises of young people who are trained on sensitising and advocating on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS and peer education.

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Y-PEER Bhutan currently has 12 networks around the country in various training institutions and colleges, Rinzin Wangmo said.

“Our main objective is to promote a healthy lifestyle through a peer to peer approach and to empower young people to make responsible decisions,” said Rinzin Wangmo.

She said they also run sessions on LGBT, gender sensitivity, teamwork, volunteerism, civic engagement, stigma and discrimination. The activities strive to promote comprehensive sexuality education to youths.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue