UNESCO joins advocates for LGBTI-inclusive education at Equal Rights Coalition conference


How governments can ensure education is LGBTI-inclusive was explored at the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) global conference in Vancouver, Canada, as part of a UNESCO-led session on LGBTI youth, inclusive education and health.   

The ERC is a coalition of 39 countries committed to advancing the human rights of LGBTI people. Their 2018 conference, chaired by the Governments of Canada and Chile, drew together around 400 representatives from governments, development cooperation organizations, multilateral agencies, and civil society.

At the UNESCO session, UNESCO Chief of Health and Education, Christopher Castle, was joined by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science from the Netherlands, Ingrid van Engelshoven, and LGBTI youth activists from Canada, Chile, China and France. They discussed the importance of making education LGBTI-inclusive, particularly through comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and teacher sensitization and training.

“Schools and learning environments should be safe, inclusive and supportive for all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” Mr Castle said. “That means mainstreaming equality and inclusion across all subjects, and providing comprehensive sexuality education which includes content on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, in an age-appropriate way.”

The UNESCO ERC session included a presentation of early findings from an online survey conducted by LGBTI youth organization, MAG Jeunes, with support from UNESCO, and which drew results from more than 20,000 respondents worldwide. The full report of the survey will be available available on the MAG Jeunes website in late 2018.

Among the respondents, nine-tenths reported feeling LGBTI youth are "never“ or “almost never” taken into account by their country's authorities. Over four-fifths reported that their needs as LGBTI persons are never or almost never addressed by school curricula or learning materials, and among those who talked with a medical service provider, only a quarter reported that they felt safe and welcomed.

“The data from the online survey is much appreciated and provides us with a baseline reference for improving,” said Minister Engelshoven.

LGBTI youth activists also shared their views, with Darian Baskatawang from Canada: “One third of LGBTI young people say they don’t feel safe at school.  We need to bring that number down to zero.”

At the conclusion of the ERC Conference, UNESCO’s Christopher Castle was selected to represent UN agencies at the Vancouver Pride Parade, which was also attended by Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.