The evaluation of the Bosnia & Herzegovina Y - Peer Network project took place from 28th – 30th January 2008 and was undertaken by Steve Lambert and Julius Kanyamunyu. This report is based on the findings of the evaluation mission in BiH. The purpose of this evaluation mission was to observe and assess how the BiH network performed within the context of the wider Y-PEER Division for Arab States, Europe and Central Asia (DASECA) regional programme.
Within the framework of programming for young people and HIV/AIDS, the UNFPA has supported a number of behavior change initiatives, including peer education in general and Y-PEER in particular. Y-PEER is an innovative, comprehensive youth-to-youth education approach. It comprises a network of over 200 organizations and institutions, and encompasses thousands of young people, working in the broad areas of adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) engaged the services of the Sustainable Research & Development (SRD) to perform an evaluation of YPEER (Youth Peer Education Network). The evaluation process required a number of teams (comprising two international consultants per team) to visit a 8 countries participating in the Y-PEER Programme. Visits to each country were brief (three days) during which time, consultants sought to gain a better understanding of the implementation of the programme nationally, its achievements and challenges. Key personnel representing the UNFPA, YPEER programme management and key informants (collaborative organizations, stake holders, peer educators) were interviewed during the course of the evaluation mission.
Prior to the field visit, evaluators received information from UNFPA HQ in New York, outlining the objectives of the evaluation mission This gave the evaluators an introduction to both the regional programme and what BiH had been doing on the national scene. The evaluators also received information, including the Evaluation Report of the BiH Y – Peer Network (Dec 2007), from the UNFPA BiH office.
Much has been achieved and there is much to celebrate in the success of the Y-Peer Network in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is an older network compared to other countries, being launched in 2003 as part of the UNFPA project titled: “Improving Sexual and Reproductive Health among Youth in BiH”. Through this project, the UNFPA BiH Country Office gave support in its Activity Plan to the development of Y-PEER Network, and establishment of youth friendly health services. This model – funding Y-Peer through youth friendly health services is still in existence today and has resulted in six NGOs actively involved in the network: Info Center Banja Luka, Info Center Bihać, Info Center Brčko, Info Center Mostar, Info Center Zenica and the Union of Medical Students BoHeMSA headquartered in Sarajevo.
It is evident from discussions with those young people involved with Y-Peer in Bosnia & Herzegovina that those involved are skilled, enthused and committed and deliver quality services and products through the network. Much has been achieved as the evaluation report by Maja Pecanac (Annex One) shows. Since the establishment of the Y-PEER network in Bosnia until today, the sum total of its activities around the country is as follows:
119,314 young people reached through the peer education sessions. 1,283 peer education presentations/session given regarding all relevant SRH issues. 437 community events in four cities (Bihać, Brčko, Mostar, Banja Luka) organized. 154,416 condoms distributed all over the country, in schools during the presentations or through outreach events.
A key outcome of the Y – Peer Network activity in Bosnia & Herzegovina has been the development of national standards in peer education. These have been developed and are yet to be adopted and implemented.
However, given all the positive work undertaken by the Y-Peer Network, it operates in a very difficult and complex environment in Bosnia & Herzegovina. These have great impact on the network itself and the on the ability of the network to undertake its desired activities.
Primarily BiH is formed of the Federation of BiH, the Republika Srpska and Brčko District. Federation is de-centralized and contains 10 autonomous cantons, while Republika Srpska is highly centralized, and Brčko District has specific political administration. Such highly fragmented political structure blocks progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and sexual and reproductive health suffers grave consequences as well. In addition, there is competitiveness among NGOs that work in SRH and among UN agencies. There are also negative impacts from adult views of young people and of peer education.
The overburdening hassles of competitors, NGO squabbles, government bureaucracy at the National, Republic and Canton levels seems to overwhelm those peer educators involved in this area. The level of enthusiasm seen in other areas was ‘dampened’ in BiH. Added to this the lack of organised activity in HIV, STI and SRH and the lack of acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the voice of young people mean that the ongoing development of Y-Peer in Bosnia & Herzegovina is fraught with difficulty.
It is for these very reasons that Bosnia & Herzegovina needs the Y-Peer Network more now than it did in the past. The Y-Peer Network, with appropriate resourcing, ownership, leadership, governance and management, can make an enormous difference to this country.