Argentina’s government has launched an interactive digital platform that informs young people in a fun, friendly, and visual way about a variety of topics traditionally seen as taboo. The platform allows users to ask experts questions – anonymously, if they wish – on a wide range of topics including gender-based violence, contraception, LGBTQ rights, eating disorders, and drugs. Launched just this year, the platform has directly assisted more than 500,000 people.
Results & Impact
Launched just this year, Hablemos de Todo’s question and answer service has helped over 500,000 young people. The platform has a Facebook reach of two million users a month, and its YouTube videos have more than a million views. Some 11,000 people have participated in training sessions and workshops. Studies show that 44% of Argentinians have their first sexual relations before the age of 16, and 34% do not use contraception the first time they have sex. More than half the country’s youth do not know how to use condoms properly.
Ministry of Social Development (Undersecretary of Youth), National Council of Women, UNICEF, civil society organisations
Currently, the platform has information and experts available to answer questions during working hours on eight main topics: gender and sexuality, gender-based violence, workplace harassment, grooming, eating disorders, suicide prevention, bullying and drugs. The content for the site was created in consultation with numerous specialist civil society organisations, who also work with Hablemos de Todo to provide workshops, face-to-face meetings, and training sessions, both off- and online. In addition to a question-and-answer service, young people in urgent situations can speak directly with an on-call expert. Suggestions for new topic areas are mined from user questions that are particularly popular.
Women and girls, LGBTQ+ people, young people, men and boys
Cost & Value
Now that the digital platform has been built, the main running costs go towards employing on-call experts to answer questions and speak to people with urgent problems.
Running since 2017
One hurdle has been some strong societal opposition, in particular from the Catholic Church, which has penned editorials condemning the platform. It also ran a Change.org petition trying to bring down an earlier, Buenos Aires-based version. In terms of the running of the platform, the most serious requests - on sexual and reproductive health, rights and suicide prevention, for example - come in on the weekend, when experts are not “live” to answer questions. A 24/7 service is now being considered. Finally, resources are only available to those with internet access, excluding young people without a private computer or space to browse the web.
While no other country has replicated the platform so far, it has a growing readership in other Spanish-speaking countries. Mexico is the second most popular user location, suggesting there may be a gap for similar information elsewhere.
In many societies – Argentina’s included – topics around sex, gender, mental health, and drugs remain taboo. Young people are rarely taught about these issues in school or within their families, and as a result, are often left with unanswered questions.
A new digital platform, Hablemos de Todo, launched this year by the Ministry of Social Development, aims to fill this critical information gap in a fun, friendly, and visual way. It is an interactive space where young Argentinians can learn and ask questions – anonymously, if they wish.
“The main topic that started the whole idea of this project was sexual and reproductive health and rights. We have a national sex education law that is very good and quite progressive, but education is the responsibility of each individual province, so it’s hard to implement in practice,” said Natalia Herbst, a Senior Advisor at the Undersecretary of Youth at the Ministry of Social Development.
“First at the city level in Buenos Aires, we decided to start making content that speaks to the daily concerns of young people in terms of sexuality, gender identity, things like that. We tried to use a young style and aesthetic, to make the content as accessible and friendly as possible,” said Herbst. “It’s separate and different from regular government communication.”
Now, with a new administration in power, the Buenos Aires version of the platform has gone national.
The gender and sexuality section includes information about contraceptives, LGBTQ rights, and HIV/AIDS. Studies show that 44% of Argentinians have their first sexual relations before the age of 16, and 34% do not use contraception the first time they have sex. More than half the country’s young people do not know how to use condoms properly.
“I think it’s very useful for young people to see the stance of the state on these topics”
But the government is ambitious in its plans to bring about change. “We’re very committed to having an informed youth, to having a youth that knows its rights, that knows about family planning. And we want to bring this information to those that that don’t attend school – to have a space outside of formal education,” said Herbst.
Other topic areas covered in detail include gender-based violence, workplace harassment, grooming, eating disorders, suicide prevention, bullying, and drugs. To make sure all the information is appropriate and accurate, content was created in collaboration with local organisations already working on the ground and UNICEF, a partner in the project.
“I think it’s very useful for young people to see the stance of the state, and prestigious social organisations giving information they can trust on these topics. Online there are so many resources that you don’t know the origins of,” said Herbst.
The partners also work with Hablemos de Todo to provide accompanying workshops, face-to-face meetings, and training sessions – both off- and online.
Future topic areas are emerging from questions young people are posing – some of which are not yet comprehensively covered on the platform. “A rework of the content is expected to be live later next year. There will be more content on each topic, new topics with Q&As, and we’re hoping to have a mobile app too,” said Herbst.
“Lots of the questions on sexual and reproductive health and rights come Saturday evening”
Critically, the platform is participatory and interactive. Anyone that signs up can ask an expert anonymous questions and receive an answer. In urgent cases, there is also the opportunity to speak directly to an expert.
“We have professionals answering questions from 8am-8pm on weekdays, but next year we are going to start a 24/7 service,” said Herbst. “Most of the questions we get on suicide prevention come on Sunday afternoon or evening, and lots of the questions on sexual and reproductive health and rights come Saturday evening.”
The platform also directs users to other useful government services. “It’s important to have a network view of everything the state offers so we can refer them to areas they want to access. We have a universal public health system – access to contraception is free here.”
The initial Buenos Aires version of the platform had an interactive map that points users to places with HIV tests, free contraceptives and face-to-face counselling. A similar map for the national version is still in progress.
Only in its first year, the uptake is already impressive. Over 500,000 people have used the question and answer service. Hablemos de Todo has a Facebook reach of two million users a month, and its videos have more than a million YouTube views. Some 11,000 people have participated in training sessions and workshops.
“Whether or not the pushback has been strong depends on how conservative each province is”
Yet, getting to this point has not been without its challenges – not least, some strong societal opposition, in particular from the Catholic Church. It has penned editorials condemning the platform and run two online petitions, one at Change.org, in an effort to bring down the earlier city-level version of the site.
“The pushback was strongest from the Church with Chautabu [the Buenos-Aires platform],” said Herbst. “They published editorials in main newspapers, and spoke on public TV about how bad the program was. It took a very strong political decision at the beginning to support work on these topics from a non-heteronormative and inclusive perspective of sexuality as fluid.”
“Whether or not the pushback has been strong depends on how conservative each province is. It is challenging, because the support for this work with training sessions and workshops in the field really varies across the country.”
Any digital platform like this also faces some limitations in terms of access: the resources are out of reach to those with no internet – or not enough privacy. “You need an offline component to reach the parts of the population that don’t know about the platform, don’t have internet, don’t have enough private space to browse, or maybe share a computer with their parents,” Herbst said. Argentina’s current internet penetration rate is a little over 70% of the population – high for the region.
“Privacy is very important to young people”
However, the idea is not to replace, but to complement traditional classroom sex education. “We need teachers in every classroom too – it doesn’t have to be either-or. But even in an ideal world where every teacher discusses these issues in schools, there is an aspect of being able to ask anonymously at home that has an advantage – privacy is very important to young people.”
While no other country has replicated the platform so far, it has a growing readership in other Spanish-speaking countries: Mexico is the second most popular user location, suggesting that Hablemos de Todo could fill information gaps in countries across the world.
Yet, replication within the region would pose its own challenges. “In Argentina, we have many laws in terms of gender identity and same sex marriage that create the legal space for this kind of work,” said Herbst. “These topics are much more sensitive in other places – in many developing countries, same-sex relationships are illegal. So it could be replicated, but there may need to be adaptations for different cultures and laws.”
(Picture credit: Hablemos de Todo)