The Young Men Initiative (YMI) project started in 2006 and is being implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo* and Serbia by CARE International Balkans and local partner organizations. The project is a follow-up to CARE´s comprehensive and programmatic efforts to prevent interpersonal and gender-based violence (GBV), as well as to promote gender equality in the region. 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. The YMI started with a small size qualitative research exploring young men`s attitudes and behaviors, then over the years grew into a comprehensive program with different components targeting young people, parents, teachers, educational workers, university students, journalists, and other important stakeholders. Since the beginning, the program has directly reached over 600,000 people (mostly youth) in over 130 communities through the implementation of thousands of different project activities.
The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 has had a major influence on YMI’s activities, since all of the project targeted countries were under complete lockdown during the period March-May, and most are currently under safety and prevention measures, which include partial curfews, minor restrictions of movement and other civic liberties, including social and cultural gatherings and events. 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.
The case study captures and documents the process of YMI’s adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic during the period March-July 2020, outlining the process and providing recommendations and lessons for the future. This case study serves as a unique product developed by CARE and partners, and represents a unique contribution and source for others organizations that are going through the same process of adaptation.
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 BMC 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.