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Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for Youth People

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) For Young People.

On 7 December 2013, Ministers of Health and Education from 20 Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa met to discuss the common challenges facing young people in the region. While they recognised that significant progress had been made to address the needs of adolescents and young people with respects to ensuring access to life skills based HIV and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services: they realised that there was still more work to be done. Notably the Eastern and Southern Africa remains the region mostly affected by HIV, its faces high rates of adolescent maternal mortality and among other social and public health challenges.

The 20 countries then crafted the Ministerial Commitment on CSE and SRH services for Adolescents and Young people in Eastern and Southern Africa – otherwise known as the ESA commitment. In it, they agreed to work collaboratively towards a vision of: Young Africans who are global citizens of the future who are educated, healthy, resilient, socially responsible, informed decision makers and with the capacity to contribute to their community, country and region. They are specifically committed to working together on a common agenda for all adolescents and young people to deliver Comprehensive Sexuality Education and adolescent sexual and reproductive health and youth friendly services.

The Family Life Association of Eswatini, as an organisation focusing on young people to champion access to quality and non-discriminatory SRHR information and services in the country has taken a leading role in providing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to young people.  Actually, the Association is targeting to reach over 80,000 young people who would have completed a quality assured CSE program delivered by FLAS volunteers, staff and partners in its Strategic Plan for 2016-2020. The Association intend to have 85% of those reached with CSE programme to demonstrate increased SRHR knowledge and ability to exercise their sexual rights by December 2020.

What is Comprehensive Sexuality Education?
Youth are constantly at the receiving end of contradictory messages about sex and sexuality. On the other hand, they are told sex is bad, associated with guilty, fear, moral weakness and disease. On the other hand, through the media and friends, sex is depicted as positive, fun, desirable and indication of power and status. Making sense of these conflicting, value laden messages can be a significant challenge- especially when they are delivered against where accurate information is scarce, gender roles are strongly enforced and human rights are not well understood.

That is where CSE comes in. CSE aims to firstly equip young people with accurate information about human rights, sex and sexuality and, secondly to provide opportunities for the development of self-esteem and life skills that encourage critical thinking, clear communication, responsible decision making and respectful behaviour.

CSE represents a shift away from methodologies that focus exclusively on the reproductive aspects of adolescent sexuality. It helps young people to explore and nurture positive values regarding their sexual and reproductive. It covers a broad range of issues relating to both the physical and biological aspects of sexuality and the emotional and social aspects. Its recognises and accepts all the people as sexual beings. To that end, effective CSE has to be both inclusive and non-stigmatising, taught over many years, address sexual and gender based violence, promote gender equality and meet the needs of young people including those with disability and living with HIV. It must be delivered in a culturally relevant and age appropriate manner that is cognisant of the evolving capacities of young people

According to the United Nations, “evidence is clear. CSE leads to improved sexual and reproductive health, resulting in reduction of sexuality transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and unintended pregnancy. It has demonstrated impact in terms of improving knowledge and self-esteem, changing attitudes, gender and social norms and building self-efficacy. Evidence has confirmed that sexuality that sexuality education does not hasten sexual activity but has a positive impact on safe sexual behaviours and can delay sexual debut and increase condom use.

The seven Key Components of CSE
According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, there are seven key components to CSE. These seven components form the cornerstone of integrated Comprehensive Sexuality Education to be delivered to young people.

Gender component looks at the differences between gender and sex, exploring gender roles and attributes, understanding perceptions of masculinity and femininity within the family and across the life cycle as well as changing norms and values; manifestation and consequences of gender bias.
Sexual and Reproductive Health –topics include sexuality and life cycle (i.e. puberty, stigma, sexual problems); understanding Sexually Transmitted Infections and how to use condoms and other forms of contraception, it further looks at faithfulness, sexual response, social expectations, respects for body, myths and stereotypes

Sexual Rights and Sexual Citizenship focuses on the knowledge of international human rights and national policies, laws and structures that relate to people’s sexuality; rights based approach to sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
Pleasure focus on being positive about young people’s sexuality, understanding that sex should be enjoyed and not forced and that it is much more than just sexual intercourse.
Violence component explores the various types of violence towards men and women and how they manifest, particularly gender based violence, non-consensual sex and understanding what is unacceptable, rights and laws as well as support options available for victims of GBV.

Diversity component focuses on recognizing and understanding the range of diversity in our lives (e.g., faith, culture. Ethnicity, socio economic status, ability/ disability, HIV status and sexual orientation). This looks into the positive view of diversity, recognising discrimination, its damaging effects and being able to deal with it and supporting young people to move beyond just tolerance
Relationships component includes the different types of relationships, how they are constantly changing, emotions and intimacy. Its further explores rights, responsibilities, power dynamics, recognising healthy and unhealthy relationships.

In conclusion, every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet research shows that the majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. Hence, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) enables young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity. And because these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.

Maxwell Dlamini 
Family Life Association of Eswatini


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