UNESCO and Sweden came together in sub-Saharan Africa in January, to pledge their commitment to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and galvanize regional action to ensure all children and young people have access to good quality, curriculum-based CSE.
UNESCO representatives were joined by the Minister for Education of Sweden, Gustav Fridolin, who visited Zambia and South Africa to take part in high-level dialogues with Ministers and policy-makers from the Governments of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa, Ghana, Swaziland and Cote d'Ivoire. The Minister also took part in the regional launch of the revised UN International technical guidance on sexuality education, which aims to assists education, health and other relevant authorities in the development and implementation of CSE programmes and materials.
Published by UNESCO in collaboration with UNAIDS, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Guidance facilitates development of accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills that contribute to positive relationships, health and well-being, and respect for human rights and gender equality.
Minister Fridolin said every young person has the right to CSE. “This makes for important steps towards gender equality, and is therefore an investment in development, economy and society as a whole. Comprehensive Sexuality Education of good quality is never an issue that concerns only girls. To reach shared and equal responsibility and healthy attitudes, sexual and reproductive health and rights and Comprehensive Sexuality Education are as important for boys and men, as they are for girls and women.”
The Minister also led the launch of UNESCO’s Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) programme, alongside the Ministers for primary and further education of Zambia. The O3 programme will strengthen CSE delivery for young people in 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Patricia Machawira, Regional Health and Education Advisor at UNESCO, said that through the O3 programme, “we envision a sub-Saharan Africa where positive health, education and gender equality outcomes are a reality for children and young people,” before adding, “Young people are receiving confusing and conflicting messages about relationships, about sex and about gender. It’s critical that schools deliver scientifically accurate education that develops the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and competencies needed to navigate a healthy transition to adulthood. Government and the education sector in sub-Saharan Africa have both an opportunity and an urgent responsibility to scale up sexuality education programs.”
The visit to sub-Saharan Africa highlighted comprehensive sexuality education as a catalyst for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 4 and 5, around good health and well –being, quality education and gender equality.