UNICEF Kosovo* Office Launches new Comprehensive Sex Education App

Prishtina, Kosovo — Sex education is rarely taught in Kosovo and is still largely being considered a taboo topic. The absence of sex education is known to be the source of an array of sexual health issues including sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.

To address this, UNICEF Kosovo Office launched ‘Shnet’, a new and revamped comprehensive sex education application and platform which is designed to address misconceptions, incorrect information, stigma, and other issues related to sexual literacy of adolescents in Kosovo.

The app holds great promise as a tool to promote the healthy development of adolescents and society in general. Head of UNICEF Kosovo Office, Murat Sahin said that “Internet penetration and mobile phone usability is very high in Kosovo, which offers an unprecedented opportunity for young people to step up and fill in this gap – and that is what young people who initiated Shnet have done!”

An early prototype of the app originated in 2016 from UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo’s UPSHIFT Workshop, a social innovation initiative which supports young people to become social innovators, and build and lead solutions to social challenges they feel passionate about. Four young girls launched the first ‘Shnet’ app, setting out to challenge taboos and advocate for the sexual health of adolescents.

One of the hallmarks of the app is that it’s a result of co-innovating and creating with young people—a by-youth-for-youth principle that makes use of evidence generated by youth to created impactful interventions.

Seeing the impact and potential of this grass-root, youth-led initiative, UNICEF supported a complete re-make of the app, now carefully tailored to include information which adolescents and youth from several human-centered consultations regarded as the most critical issues affecting their physical and mental health.

The new content is empirical, evidence-based and was developed in close cooperation with doctors, psychologists and university professors. It includes the first period tracker in the Albanian language as a tool for young women to keep track of their menstruation cycles. And perhaps most importantly, it hosts an innovative Artificial Intelligence in the form of a ‘Chat bot’, which uses advanced algorithms to automatically answer questions users pose.

”Real information and comprehensive sex education leads to a healthy youth, positive behaviors, and fact-based decisions – and all this adds to raising the level and capacity of society and human capital” said Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Rustem Musa, present at the event.

The app now consists of four main components: Learn, Play, Period Tracker, and Chatbot, and contains an array of rubrics such as Anatomy, Healthy Relationships, Know Yourself etc. The interactive app also lets users play a roulette game which randomly assigns a topic which users can read about.

At the event, Eurisa Rukovci took the floor on behalf of her peers explaining that a lot female friends were forcibly married off as a result of unwanted pregnancies which came from a lack of knowledge on contraception. People don’t talk about sexual health; it’s taboo in families and schools, which is why we first set out to create the app.

Eurisa says that together with her peers, she will promote the application in communities that do not have access to basic of complementary sex education. “Our plan is to promote [the platform] in different areas of Kosovo particularly focusing on rural areas. We will also try to work with different academic institutions to raise awareness on the importance of sexual education,” she says.

Shnet will now serve as a learning tool to inform Kosovo’s youth on sex education, reproductive health, and other relevant information. It will be a vital guide and an asset that will assist young people to make healthy decisions about sex and to adopt healthy sexual behaviors.

The development of the new app was made possible by UNICEF’s Gender Innovation Fund. The app is available on the Playstore at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shnet and on the App store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shnet/id1439130934?ls=1&mt=8.

* All references to Kosovo are made in the Context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.