APEN - Auroville Peer Education Network
In early October 2018, in an attempt to build an Auroville Peer Education Network, YouthLink conducted its first YPEER Training. Y-PEER is a methodology developed by United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA). It arose in the early 2000s to address the prevalence of HIV specifically in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Due to factors such as drug abuse and unprotected sex, youth were a target group especially vulnerable to the spread of HIV. This methodology focused on empowering youth to spread the right information and resources to their peers, built on the premise that youth are the best equipped to reach out to their peers since teenagers are more receptive to their peers than the adults in this period of their lives. This is specifically the case with taboo subjects such as sexual health, drug abuse and peer pressure.
Closer home in Auroville, Juan and Anna who have had experience in this field of work for many years, decided to work together with YouthLink to design a locally adapted curriculum, using the Y-PEER UNFPA methodology called Auroville Peer Education Training (APET). So far there has been 3 successful APETs.
Once participants have undergone training, they are initiated into the Auroville Peer Education Network (APEN). Currently the APEN has 33 members. The purpose of the network is to empower youth to take their learnings from the APET and develop activities and sessions to spread more awareness among their peers relying on the APEN for support and feedback. Many groups and activities have been inspired by these trainings: LGBT Support Group, sessions conducted on Sexual Health and Boundaries, open discussions on Love, Sexuality and Relationships as well as Informative Movie Nights to name a few. We, at YouthLink, commit to investing our energies to see the APEN strengthen and flourish for the Youth in Auroville and hope to be supported by many others along the way!
APET is a 1-week program that aims to educate youth in Auroville on sensitive topics such as drug abuse, addictions, rape, consent, and prevention of STIs. Providing information on such topics to a group of young community members can then empower them to take initiative and help those around them who are currently or at risk of facing such difficulties. This of course goes in hand with understanding the limits to peer education - and when is the suitable moment to reach out to "experts" such as psychologists, doctors, ambulance, security service or police.
The training is designed to raise awareness about difficult topics through various types of sessions. The course is conducted through games and theatre-based exercises, where the youth are shown the many different ways people interpret situations and what course of action to take, always mindful of the situation at hand and the context one finds themselves in.