The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 has had a major influence on one of the CAREs longest project implemented in the Balkans – Young Men Initiative (YMI). The YMI targets youth in order to build their knowledge and attitudes concerning gender equality and healthy lifestyles, and to reduce all types of violence in school and community environments across the Balkans.
Considering that the project activities mainly focus on working with youth in communities and educational institutions across the region, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted project implementation. This has motivated CARE and partners to bring innovations and adapt the project to the beneficiary needs in the pandemic context.
In 2020, YMI’s approach demonstrated its resilience to crisis and ability to adapt to the specific circumstances of target groups. The YMI was created for young people, to respond to the needs of young people, wherever young people may be. The digitalization of activities was the main focus of all partner organizations, which can be seen as an upgrade of the previous digital work that resulted in great success and brought outstanding innovation to the YMI. This included the adjustment of workshops, endline research, school and community based campaigns, and Be a Man Club meetings, as well as the introduction of podcasts, social media live shows, online quizzes and challenges, and psychological support. In the period March-July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, partners implemented over 600 activities with 68,525 direct participants, of which 90% were young people ages 15-30.
CARE team has developed a case study capturing and documenting the process of YMI’s adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic that represents a unique contribution and source for other organizations that are going through the same process of adaptation.
The Case Study is developed within the projects “Young Men Initiative (YMI): Promoting Healthier Lifestyles among Youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Challenging Gender Stereotypes II or Young Men Initiative II (YMI II)” and “Men and Boys as Partners in Promoting Gender Equality and the Prevention of Youth Extremism and Violence in the Balkans” funded by Oak Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Austrian Development Cooperation and implemented by CARE International Balkans in cooperation with the following civil society organizations: Association XY (Sarajevo), Perpetuum Mobile (Banja Luka), NGO Youth Power (Mostar), Center E8 (Belgrade), Status M (Zagreb), SIT Center for Counseling, Social Services and Research and YMCA Kosovo (Pristina), Youth Education Club Synergy (Kosovska Mitrovica), and Act for Society Centre (Tirana).