Building peace in the minds of men and women

The Nairobi Summit: Expanding access to sexuality education

09 December 2019

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is the cornerstone of universal access to sexual and reproductive health, is essential to education, and in achieving gender equality. Recognizing this, governments across the world are incorporating CSE into national curriculums to ensure young people have age appropriate and culturally relevant knowledge and skills to make responsible choices about their lives.

CSE was central to discussions at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, which took place 25 years after the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development, where 179 governments called for the empowerment of women and girls in all spheres of their lives, including in sexual and reproductive health.

More than 400 people came together in support of CSE at an ICPD25 session, where a new CSE partnership was launched by UNFPA, Pop Council, IPPF, Rutgers, AfriYan and UNESCO. The partnership aims to ensure all young people have access to quality CSE by 2030, and calling governments, NGOs, youth-led organizations, private sector organizations and others to advance CSE. It focuses onreaching the most marginalised with CSE, including those who are out-of-school and those who face discrimination and human rights violations based on gender, race, age, ability and social status.

Joanna Herat, Senior Programme Specialist in Health and Education at UNESCO, said only through working together can CSE be delivered at scale. “Through this new partnership, we commit to improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and their health and well-being, leaving no one behind,” Ms Herat said. “For young people to make a safe and happy transition to adulthood, they absolutely need access to quality CSE. It promotes safer sexual behaviours while not hastening sexual activity, and also changes attitudes, gender and social norms, and builds self-efficacy.”

Progress in CSE, but more needs to be done

Many governments have already made great strides in promoting CSE, including South Africa, whose government proactively dispels misinformation and public concern about sexuality education. South Africa has strengthened CSE in the curriculum in view of the high rates of gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, and the significant number of young people, especially those aged 14 – 24, who lose their lives due to HIV/AIDS.

In Namibia, efforts to reach all young people with CSE go beyond the classroom, extending to radio and social media in local languages. Speaking at the CSE session at ICPD25, Ayesha Wentworth, Deputy Director of Diagnostic, Advisory and Training Services in Namibia’s Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, explained that the Government promotes interactive and engaging content for all young people. “Girls don’t make themselves pregnant,” Ms Wentworth said, “We need to make sure that we’re reaching boys with sexuality education as well.”

Saidou Jallow, Chief of Education at UNESCO Regional Office, Nairobi, said: “UNESCO and its education sector play an important role in advocating for sexual and reproductive health and guiding UNESCO Member States to deliver comprehensive sexuality education. Quality CSE addresses human rights and gender equality, and is informed by the best available evidence. There is a strong need to advance CSE to help young people realize their rights”.