Sexual diversity: A youth network

Young people have for three years been using a community-based network to promote change.
«We are a heterogeneous, inclusive group; we do not attach any importance to sexual orientation, gender identity, occupation, or area of residence,» said Yasmany Díaz, national coordinator of the Youth Network for Sexual Rights and Health.

Established on February 4, 2011, after two years of work at the University of Havana, the network has been supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Its first actions focused on fighting homophobia, but the need to formulate a more comprehensive educational strategy was soon identified by specialists at the National Sex Education Center (CENESEX).

The network, which is active in 10 out of the 15 provinces of the country, has trained hundreds of its members in issues like HIV/AIDS, gender violence, and sexual and human rights.

«It has provided us with the opportunity to work at the community level,» stressed Lisbet Alvarado, provincial coordinator in Santiago de Cuba, over 800 miles east of Havana.

«I joined the network because it seeks to build a better world for all,» she told SEMlac.

«We are actively involved in the Cuban Meetings to Fight Violence against Women and Homophobia, the International Book Fair and other events,» Díaz indicated.

«We make special emphasis on rural work due to deeply rooted male-chauvinistic, homophobic and gender-based stereotypes and prejudices in the countryside,» he added.

«We discuss issues like teenage pregnancy, which is very relevant here,» said Daydis Hidalgo, provincial network coordinator in Sancti Spíritus, 380 miles east of Havana. She strongly favors the idea of involving families and social institutions in all actions.

Provincial network leaders met last February to develop an action and monitoring plan for 2014, including training needs and new members like unemployed and self-employed people, as well as university students.

Research works have highlighted the need to involve them in designing, implementing and evaluating network actions.

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