UNFPAState of World Population 2003
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2003: Promoting Healthier Behavior
State of World Population
Overview of Adolescent Life
Gender Inequality and Reproductive Health
HIV/AIDS and Adolescents
Promoting Healthier Behavior
Meeting Reproductive Health Services Needs
Comprehensive Programmes for Adolescents
Giving Priority to Adolescents
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Promoting Healthier Behavior

Where Adolescents Get Their Information
Sexuality Education in Schools
Peer Education and Peer Counseling
Reaching Out-of-school Youth
Mass Media, Entertainment and Sports

Reaching Out-of-school Youth

Reaching adolescents who are not in school remains the greatest challenge. Some programmes have found a way to use peer educators for this target group. Other promising programmes sponsored by youth organizations combine informational efforts with income-producing and micro-enterprise activities. While these groups have learned important lessons, such programmes are typically small and difficult to expand because they lack an existing network or structure.

Family planning associations in Belize and Peru succeeded in reaching out-of-school youth through a drama/dance peer counselling programme and an income-generating strategy, respectively.(52)

In collaboration with the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, the Kenya Scouts Association developed a 72-hour family life skills programme that covered decision-making, health and hygiene, STIs and HIV, sexuality, relationships and reproductive health.(53) Scout leaders were trained to teach the lessons and to work with parents on improving communication with youth, including on sexuality. An evaluation showed that working with a homogeneous out-of-school group was more effective than mixing these young people with their in-school peers. In 1998, UNFPA supported the expansion of this programme to all scouting units throughout the country over a four-year period.

Like Homies Unidos (see box), Thailand’s Lifenet programme aimed to build support networks and peer education skills among young people at risk.(54) The programme combined various youth activities, linked itself to other organizations in support of youth, and engaged local leaders in overcoming negative attitudes towards young people. It worked with managers of bars and nightclubs and created educational opportunities in venues where youth spent time. Young people involved in this project eventually set up their own group, Cycle of Life, and established a newsletter, a mobile phone hotline and a drop-in centre.


Gang members in search of better lives without violence founded El Salvador’s Homies Unidos in 1996. As a result of the 12-year war in El Salvador, many children were left on their own and turned to street gangs for a sense of belonging and identity. The lives of gang members are short and dangerous.

The founders of Homies Unidos wanted to address both violence and health risks faced by their peers. Early experience showed them that they had to recruit gang members as peer counsellors, both to attract other members and to communicate using the right vocabulary, codes of conduct and familiarity with life choices.See Sources

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