26.09.2017 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

A mobile application for adolescent sexuality education soon to be released

©UNESCO/X. Hospital

Young people from five countries in West and Central Africa met with UNESCO, the African Network for Education, Health and Citizenship (RAES) and YUX to develop a mobile application on sexual and reproductive health. At the end of the workshop, which took place from 18 to 22 September in Dakar, the young people and a team of experts outlined an application adapted to the expectations and needs of adolescents in this area.

Difficulties in accessing information and health centres, taboos, denial of sexuality among adolescents, inadequate school curricula, insufficient preparation for puberty, lack of concrete and practical arguments to resist peer pressure or the desire for new experiences: all these factors explain why adolescents are at risk of STIs, including HIV, unwanted pregnancies, or gender-based violence.

Some adolescents are particularly at risk because they are out of school, exposed to violence, or because social norms prevent them from accessing sexual help or services. For fear of confidentiality breach, stigmatization and even reprisal, many young people, especially minors, fear seeking advice from formal services and adults. Civil society associations, for their part, are not always free to provide services to adolescents most at risk of sexual and reproductive health problems.

In its strategy on education for health and well-being, UNESCO's priority is to ensure that all children and young people benefit from comprehensive sexuality education. As many adolescents do not have access to sexuality education through schools, UNESCO, with the support of UNAIDS and in partnership with the NGO RAES and the digital agency YUX, is working with most vulnerable young people to develop an application that can equip them with the knowledge, attitudes, values and skills they need to protect themselves from STIs, including HIV, make informed choices, and build healthy and respectful relationships.

“Sexuality is something fundamental in the lives of young people... The beginning of sexuality comes at a key stage in a person's development. The app can help you to live through this step well, to approach it safely,” said a young participant at the workshop.

Ten young people from five West and Central African countries participated in the early stages of application development: identifying problems, building on existing solutions, creating content, proposing ideas for the design, or contributing to a communication strategy around the application. A multidisciplinary team of experts in sexuality education, media development, evaluation and design of digital solutions worked with them to create a product for smartphones that they would like to use and that would help them live their full potential, in good health and in harmony with their surroundings.

Thanks to the contributions of young people and experts, a first version of the application will be developed and tested with a wider group of adolescents.

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