Caribbean Education Technicians Tackle Sexuality Education Head-on!
Every young person should be supported to achieve their full potential. The realization of this full potential is inextricably linked to maintaining good sexual health by empowering young people to make informed choices regarding abstinence, protection from STI’s and pregnancy and sexual violence among other ills.
The right to the highest available standard of health is a fundamental right articulated in several conventions and treaties including the ICPD Programme of Action, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS. Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) information, education, commodities and services had been identified as crucial to the health of adolescents and youth and to realizing sustainable development.
School-based sexuality education programmes are potentially highly effective, cost effective and even cost-saving, if these programmes display certain characteristics, namely, that they are intra-curricular, comprehensive, nationally rolled out and delivered in conjunction with youth-friendly health services.
Despite the foregoing, the region faces grave challenges in implementing comprehensive sexuality education programmes for its young people. As a result, many young people remain vulnerable due to early sexual initiation, unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), including HIV, poor access to commodities, sexual violence and limited sexuality education.
The WHO Global School Based Survey (2004-2011) on young adolescents (aged 13 – 15) showed that while the majority on young people did not report being sexually active, a significant number of young people are engaged in sexual activity. In countries where disaggregated data was available, 71.1% of sexually active males and females had sex by the age of 14. Approximately 38% of sexually active young people did not use a condom at last sex. Use of contraceptive methods was also less than optimum with up to three quarters of these young people in nine countries surveyed reporting not using a method.
Caribbean young people are the second most affected population in the world when it comes to HIV infection. The prevalence among young people varies among countries with a low of 0.1% in Cuba to a high of 1.1% in Haiti and 0.5% in Bahamas. Of concern are higher prevalence figures among young girls in some countries including Bahamas with a prevalence of 0.5% and Belize 1%.
It is behind this frame that UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in partnership with UNESCO and UNICEF and in collaboration with CARICOM and PANCAP, will be executing a regional consultation on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to be held in Barbados over October 31 and November 1, 2013 at the Accra Hotel in Barbados. The meeting will bring together senior technical officers in government with responsibility for policy on sexuality and/or life skills education from across the English- and Dutch-Speaking Caribbean.
The key objective of the meeting is to assess the region’s progress towards the provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education for our young people, in and out of school. The meeting will also deliberate on strategies for accelerated action towards realizing Universal Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education for the region’s young people.
The results of this meeting will feed into a high level regional meeting on teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean being organized by UNFPA for December 2013.