The purpose of this paper is to study the effectiveness of the international volunteer programme’s dance4life (D4L) in Russia. The programme aims to address taboos, stigma, discrimination, HIV/AIDS prevention and the promotion of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and a healthy lifestyle among adolescents. The programme uses an “edutainment” model that involves young people through music, dance and youth icons. Educated volunteers provide schoolchildren with comprehensive information on SRHR and demonstrate the practical application of life and leadership skills. The programme ends with a celebration event.
Qualitative and quantitative methods were used. Only those who got as far as stage three of the process, 20 per cent of those who begun, were sampled. The qualitative research involved youth aged 13-19 (20 interviews, six focus groups), teachers (eight interviews), volunteer team members (eight interviews) and programme managers in four project regions and in Moscow (five interviews). In the quantitative research 105 respondents took part, of whom 48 per cent were 13-16 years old, 44 per cent were 17-19 years old and 8 per cent were 20-23 years old. Both boys and girls were included in the sample.
Young people’s participation in D4L had a significant positive impact on perceptions of SRHR and knowledge levels, changed some misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and helped develop social and healthy lifestyle skills. The programme contributed to the growth of voluntary activity and the organizational skills of participants. Teachers’ perceptions of SRHR changed positively after their participation in the programme.
The fact that the sample is only those who completed all stages of the programme, 20 per cent of the overall population who began it, is clearly a source of bias. The size of the quantitative research sample (n=105) does not allow disaggregation of data by region nor by gender: this limitation was minimized by choosing four regions with relatively comparable socio-economic status, and through quota sampling in equal proportions for boys and girls. This is the first time such a study has been conducted, so it is not possible to draw conclusions about the long-term impact of the programme.
The short implementation period allows for the dissemination of information and training to large numbers despite limited funding.
The D4L approach provides information on SRHR to youth, which arouses their interest, and is perceived as relevant and important. Programme participants use this information themselves and share it with their friends, parents and other adults.
The D4L programme is unique in Russia: there is no regular sexual education in Russian schools. School programmes are rarely evaluated with the methods used in this study.
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