Empowerment of high risk youth in Pakistan
Rana Gulzar Ahmad
Amal, NGO, Quetta, Pakistan
Introduction As poverty continues to grip Pakistan,
the number of urban street children grows and has now reached alarming
proportions, demanding far greater action than presently offered. Urbanization,
natural catastrophe, drought, disease, war and internal conflict, economic
breakdown causing unemployment, and homelessness have forced families and
children in search of a “better life,” often putting children at risk
of abuse and exploitation.
Objectives To reduce drug use on the streets in
particular injectable drug use and to prevent the transmission of STDs/HIV/AIDS
among vulnerable youth.
Methodology Baseline study and situation assessment of
Health problems particularly HIV and STDs among street children of Quetta,
Activities and conclusion The program launched a peer education
program, including: awareness of self and body protection focusing on child
sexual abuse, STDs/HIV/AIDS, life skills, gender and sexual rights awareness,
preventive health measures, and care at work.
It also opened care and counseling
center for these working and street children and handed these centers over to
Relationships among AIDS-related knowledge and beliefs and
sexual behavior of young adults were determined. Reasons for unsafe sex included:
misconception about disease etiology, conflicting cultural values, risk denial,
partner pressures, trust and partner significance, accusation of promiscuity,
lack of community endorsement of protective measures, and barriers to condom
access. In addition, socio-economic pressure, physiological issues, poor
community participation and attitudes, and low education level limited the
effectiveness of existing AIDS prevention education.
According to the baseline
study the male children are exposed to knowledge of safe sex through peers,
Hakims, and blue films. Working children found sexual information through older
children and their teachers/ supervisors (Ustad).
Recommendations It was found
that working children are highly vulnerable to STDs/HIV/AIDS, as they lack
protective measures in sexual abuse and are unaware of safe sexual practices.
Training of adolescent as peer educators is recommended. Ours being an Islamic
society, such information should be given to youth in a way that does not
challenge local norms and values. Problem-based learning and participatory
education for improving knowledge and condom use and community-based
interventions should be considered for STDs/HIV/AIDS prevention.