Young people speak out on sexuality education
Three young people, three different regions, one mission: Manuela Donato, Pablo Torres Aguilera and Samuel Kissi recently participated in the International Technical Consultation on Scaling up Sexuality Education, 13-15 March 2012, at UNESCO.
Manuela represented the Global Youth Coalition on HIV and AIDS (GYCA); Pablo, who is a young person living with HIV, represented the Netherlands-based NGO Dance for Life, and Samuel represented the African Youth and Adolescents network on Population and Development (AFRIYAN). All three advocate for comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health and rights for young people.
The big issue for me is creating an environment where you can make choices free of pressure. School is the first channel to get information and share experience, so governments should make more space for sexuality education.
In Latin America and the Caribbean we are considered advanced and quite progressive. We have good guidelines, declarations and policies (in Brazil for example). But when it comes to implementation, it’s a challenge to get governments to include sexuality education as a priority. Teachers should be better trained for this, for example. But it’s is almost never a priority. The challenge exists in local government, in schools and the community – in fact at all levels.
What could UNESCO do to help? UNESCO could share good guidelines and examples, databases, research documents and support communities and governments.
For me the big issue is inclusion and the integration of key populations in sexuality education. For example those who are most affected by HIV - how are they addressed in school settings? What about LGBT students, drug users, and sex workers? When I found out I was HIV-positive I had never had sexuality education. My own school setting was very homophobic – my primary school teachers were verbally abusive.
I prefer to use the word “empower” than “educate”. Our sexuality education programme at Dance for Life has four steps which we transmit through dance and music to get peoples’ attention and get the message across.
I believe UNESCO can help target out-of-school populations and educate them in formal and non-formal settings.
I am interested in integrating health and education and in how young people can get access to services once they have the knowledge – whether gained in and out of school. We want to reach them all. When there are legal or policy restrictions inside the school then we get to them outside school.
My organization, AFRIYAN, is a regional network of national networks consisting of 36 countries. Our mandate is the programme of action of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994).
In Ghana I work with an organization called Curious Minds. We use radio and the media to educate and inform young people about their rights. In deprived districts we trained schoolchildren between 10 and 16 in basic broadcasting skills and on children's rights, sexuality education etc so they educated their peers. “Stay in school” was the message of the programme. It ran for a couple of years. The kids who had the training tended to stay in school and model responsible behaviour, for example, using condoms and not getting pregnant too early. Some went on to secondary school and university. The activity made them ask more of themselves.