|© UNICEF video|
|Youth peer educators provide information on violence and HIV/AIDS prevention at the Indian Ocean Games.|
By Susanna Mullard
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 24 August 2007 – Madagascar has just finished playing host to the Indian Ocean Games, a regional version of the Olympics, which ended on 19 August.
With more than 2,500 athletes from Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mayotte, Reunion and the Seychelles competing in various athletic events, huge crowds from throughout the region were drawn to support their teams and sports idols.
The games gave UNICEF an opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of young and adolescent spectators, educating them on their rights and encouraging them to get involved in the issues that affect them.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Junior Goodwill Ambassador Name Six performing at the celebration of the International Day of Youth, which took place during the Indian Ocean Games.|
Young activists on the move
To help youths in the region combat HIV/AIDS and violence, and meet other key challenges, UNICEF trained 600 young peer educators and then dispersed them throughout the 10 sites where the games took place.
Some of these young activists chose to staff specially designed information stands outside each sports facility, whilst the majority mingled with the crowds both inside and outside the stadiums.
Throughout the eight-day competition, they worked tirelessly to distribute various materials to their peers – including copies of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the local Malagasy language, red cards promoting the fight against sexual exploitation, and emergency phone numbers for young people to dial toll-free in times of need.
The peer educators also used informal chats to help their contemporaries protect themselves from both unnecessary and unavoidable dangers.
|© UNICEF video|
|Peer educators pass the word along to other young spectators at the games in Madagascar.|
Reaching beyond the games
The youth activists’ efforts, combined with specialized advertisements broadcast on Malagasy television, carried these messages to an estimated 100,000 young people or more.
UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes was delighted by the results.
“UNICEF is constantly working to identify the best opportunities and realms through which to promote child rights, and this has been a particularly successful one,” he said. “It is now our hope that the children and teenagers who received information this week will spread the messages amongst their friends and families, allowing an even bigger sphere of people to be reached, educated and empowered.”
Rap star warns of substance abuse
But UNICEF’s efforts did not stop with the peer educators. Malagasy rap sensation Narcisse Randrianarivony, alias ‘Name Six’, also performed a concert at the International Day of Youth celebrations that took place during the Indian Ocean Games.
Appointed in May as UNICEF’s first-ever Junior Goodwill Ambassador, Name Six seized the opportunity to warn his peers of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. As he does in the lyrics of his chart-topping songs, he appealed eloquently to the crowd to stand up and protect themselves from the downward spiral of substance abuse.
Through effective peer-to-peer education and a variety of other youth-led activities, the future can be brighter for youths and adolescents across the Indian Ocean region. As the example of the past week shows, more and more young people here are being equipped with the necessary tools to protect themselves from violence, HIV/AIDS other perils they may face.