UNESCO IITE and DVOR: Talking to young people about COVID-19

One of the flagship projects of UNESCO IITE is the educational online community DVOR based on the social network VK.com. The project has existed for only a year, but it has already managed to develop its unique style in communication on sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as to gather a loyal and steadily expanding teenage audience from all over the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

DVOR is created by a team of professional science journalists and, consequently, they took active stand in countering the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors aimed to touch upon the most pertinent topics and pick the most comfortable formats for discussing COVID-19 with a young audience. As it turned out, for young people, a huge challenge is not so much a threat to their own health as worries about their older relatives, as well as difficulties with life in social isolation – these are the issues DVOR pays special attention to in its materials released during the pandemic.

However, first thing is first – it all started with an explainer on COVID-19 prevention measures and safe behavior. To tell about this in a simple and clear manner, DVOR created a series of infographics featuring basic rules for protection from COVID-19.

Soon comments of concerned subscribers began to appear under the publication. People kept asking for advice on how to talk about the virus with older relatives and convince them to stay home:

– Please make a publication on how to convince relatives of the danger. My grandmother walks around pretty much everywhere, to visit her friends and to do some shopping. She says “all this COVID thing is a nonsense and it will never get to me”

– My parents refuse to wear masks = (

– Admins, please, if possible, brief us on how to explain to relatives and friends that this whole situation is really important. They only call me paranoid and don’t understand why they should not go to shopping malls and to the gym.

The DVOR team promptly responded to these concerns and produced materials on negotiations with the older generation, in collaboration with a psychologist from a youth support center. The authors also released a series of info cards dedicated to getting through the pandemic and quarantine. “The Guide to Surviving Self-Isolation” covered topics such as coexistence with relatives in a confined space, eating disorders and apathy associated with isolation, increased anxiety and media consumption.

In addition to the cards, DVOR released a comprehensive article: “Concerns That Get out of Hand”. Using the characters of popular films and TV shows as examples, the authors articulated certain techniques for dealing with intrusive thoughts and managing stress.

These serious and expert-led materials on DVOR are of course mixed with memes, playlists and funny surveys, for example, on subscribers’ pets behavior during the quarantine.

In response to their efforts, the DVOR received a sincere and emotional response from the audience:

Thank you for the most useful and high-quality educational content)

Awesome project, thank you for your work

Thank you for bringing the light of knowledge to the masses ✨✨✨

Wishing you a successful fight against stereotypes and best to your educational work!

In this way, the DVOR project is leading a dialogue with the teenage audience of the EECA countries about the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. This online conversation allows thousands of subscribers to find answers to their questions, stay up to date and feel supported by the community.