UNESCO celebrates 2 years of progress: reaching millions of Young People with Comprehensive Sexuality EducationShare
Young people remain at the forefront of the AIDS response across Eastern and Southern Africa. Although they are vulnerable to infection, they also have the opportunity to change the discourse of HIV/AIDS prevalence forever. In order for this to happen, comprehensive knowledge in how to prevent it is key. Last week, UNESCO, with the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), reviewed the second year of progress in a project seeking to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention in eight countries: Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda Zambia, South Sudan and Namibia.
UNESCO, Sida, Mozambique government officials and other key stakeholders gathered in Maputo, Mozambique to present progress and discuss critical next steps in ensuring that all young people have access to critical information and sexual and reproductive health services.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, research has shown that 60 per cent of young people still lack the basic knowledge to prevent HIV due to their limited access to sexuality education. 430,000 new HIV infections are contracted among young people (age 15-24) each year and health services are often withheld from young people because of their age, marital or legal status.
The three-year project is expected to reach 35,000 schools, 74,000 teachers and 15 million learners across the region by December 2015. Focusing on building the capacity of education and health sectors, the project helps build political commitment, strengthen the quality and implementation of sexuality education curricula and improves community engagement in young people’s access to sexuality education and health services.
So far, the project has seen positive results, having already trained over 90,000 teachers in sexuality education, 197 teacher-training colleges and reaching almost 2.4 million learners across the region.
“We are grateful for the generous support from Sida,” said Dr. Patricia Machawira, Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor with UNESCO. “This project is transforming the lives of millions of young people across the region. It is critical in building young people’s knowledge of their own sexuality, allowing them to make informed decisions so that they can live healthy and empowered lives.”
Due to the success and overwhelming support from the project, Namibia and South Sudan have been added to the initial six countries that were agreed upon two years ago. Ten additional countries within the region will benefit from capacity building and lesson sharing.
“It is time to act now for the young people today of this region. We need the active mobilization and actions from all segments of society including high-level commitment from the government and community leaders,” said B. Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum, Head of the Maputo Office that hosted the event in Mozambique.
“We are glad that the Government of Sweden has been able to provide UNESCO with additional support for scaling up sexuality education in the Eastern and Southern Africa region, including Mozambique,” said Ms Grace Tambatamba Chiyaba, Regional Advisor, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, HIV and AIDS from the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka.
“Over the two years, we are already seeing significant progress being made at local, national and regional levels. It is pertinent we gain and maintain this momentum, building towards even larger impact in 2015.”