UNESCO launches its global comprehensive sexuality education campaign

07 December 2018

UNESCO launched its global campaign 'Comprehensive sexuality education: A foundation for life and love' with a photography exhibition and event On World AIDS Day 2018 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. 

“Know your status”, the official theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, highlights how comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) helps young people to make healthier life decisions, including knowing their HIV status. Comprehensive sexuality education lays the foundation for life and love. Yet, too few young people have the knowledge and skills they need to grow up healthy and happy.

“At UNESCO, we believe that knowledge is power, and that dialogue is the pathway to peaceful and sustainable societies,” says Firmin Matoko, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations. “At its heart, comprehensive sexuality education is about both of these things—providing young people with an evidence-based understanding of their sexual and reproductive health, and with the skills to talk with their peers, families and communities about complicated issues such as relationships, gender, puberty, and consent.”

A foundation for Life and Love

UNESCO’s Foundation for Life and Love campaign (#CSEandMe) aims to highlight the benefits of good quality CSE for all young people. As part of the campaign, UNESCO interviewed families from across the world about their experience of sexuality education. From Asia Pacific to Africa, Latin America to Europe and North America, parents and children told us that they wish they had known more about puberty, love, sex and relationships.

Ambassador Anna Brandt of the Permanent Delegation of Sweden to UNESCO said that CSE equips and empowers young people to make responsible and informed choices about their lives and future. “Sweden firmly believes that UNESCO is uniquely positioned to provide global recommendations and best practices as well as technical assistance to ensure that young people have access to good quality comprehensive sexuality education,” the Ambassador said. “I want to underline that sexual and reproductive health and rights and comprehensive sexuality education is as important for boys and men, as for girls and women. This is not a girls’ issue. There has to be a common understanding of the rights and responsibilities among both genders.”

Youth representative Akosua Agyepong from Ghana, who features in the CSE campaign videos, said that CSE provided her with the foundation with which to live a life in line with her values and aspirations. “CSE gave me freedom; and from then on, nothing has been impossible for me to dream and to achieve.”

CSE is important for all young people, said Dr. Ian Askew, Director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the event. He noted that “what happens during adolescence is critically important to what happens to your health, to your well-being later on in life. People have to have good education, good information and what influences people’s norms and values around sex behaviours—it happens in an educational context.”

Get involved in the campaign

Ministers, decision-makers, community leaders, civil society and parents play a critical role in ensuring all children and young people have access to good quality CSE. CSE supports young people in making better, informed decisions and often delays initiation of sexual activity and reduces sexual risk-taking.

What does CSE mean to you? Join the conversation at #CSEandMe.