UNESCO and Sweden held an event 3 November 2017at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, to commemorate their partnership to support positive health, gender and education outcomes for adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Adolescents and young people in sub-Saharan Africa face many sexual and reproductive health challenges, including early and unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, gender-based violence and child marriage. In the region, AIDS is the leading cause of death in young people aged 10-19 years, with adolescent girls and young women at disproportionate risk, acquiring HIV five to seven years earlier than men.
UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, said the partnership between UNESCO and Sweden was empowering the youth of Africa to make informed and healthy decisions about their future. “The link between education and health is absolutely unequivocal. Healthy learners are better learners. Better educated learners have the knowledge and skills to stay healthy,” said the Director-General.
The event, “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future: Sweden’s support to UNESCO for expanding comprehensive sexuality education in Africa”, was held during the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference. It featured interventions by UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, the Minister for Education of Sweden, Gustav Fridolin, and Ambassador to UNESCO for Zambia, Humphrey Chilu Chibanda, representing General Education Minister for Zambia, Dennis Wanchinga.
“Addressing the health challenges that undermine the well-being of sub-Saharan Africa’s young population is a top priority of Sweden’s development and foreign policy,” said the Minister for Education of Sweden, Gustav Fridolin. “All adolescents and young people deserve the opportunity to develop the skills and competencies they need to reduce early and unintended pregnancies, eliminate gender-based violence and prevent HIV.”
Ambassador to UNESCO for Zambia, Humphrey Chilu Chibanda, said he was pleased to join other African governments who will benefit from Sweden’s support to implement Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future. “The programme will support and accelerate our efforts and commitment to ensure that comprehensive sexuality education empowers adolescents and young people, while developing the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and competencies needed to sustain positive education, health and gender equality outcomes. We fully stand behind young people’s rights, lives and future.”
Through Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future, UNESCO and Sweden will support UNESCO Member States to provide adolescents and young people with CSE that promotes gender equality and human rights and addresses gender norms and stereotypes. The growing body of evidence confirms that well-implemented sexuality education programmes result in young people delaying age of first sex, reduced frequency of sex, reduced number of sex partners, and increased rates of condom use.
The programme directly contributes to the education, health and gender Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It expands on existing work in Eastern & Southern Africa through the ESA Commitment, with new projects in West & Central Africa. It focuses on Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC and Nigeria, with the benefits set to extend to Benin, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Sweden has committed 79.7 million SEK (approximately 10 million USD) over the next three years to the Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future project, bringing their total support for CSE to 220 million SEK (approximately 30 million USD) over an 8-year period.