Evidence from various studies on the value of comprehensive sexuality education in young people’s lives is very clear and convincing. Over the years, a growing number of governments have committed to deliver Comprehensive sexuality education and Youth friendly health services to adolescents and young people. This progress is quite encouraging.
Access to education and health care is essential for the health and well-being of young people; it also facilitates their engagement in society and helps them achieve their potential. At the intersection of education and health, CSE is vital to advancing better health outcomes and gender equality. It equips young people the skills and knowledge they need to have healthy lives and relationships, now and for the rest of their lives.
Sexuality Education programs that recognize sexual activities; growth and development during adolescence as normal seek to ensure the safety of such behavior within the frameworks of human rights, gender equality and empowerment result to positive impact in critical areas. CSE improves knowledge, confidence and self-esteem of adolescents, and can positively change or challenge attitudes and gender and social norms. Such programs also promote informed decision making and effective communication skills among young people, and enable them to protect themselves from risky behaviors such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. These practical skills are pillars for healthy lives that may not be formally taught to adolescents and young people in any other context.
But there is much work to be done. While Kenya made commitments to scale up sexuality education, this is not always implemented in practice. The Kenyan government has been struggling to establish the implementation of school-based CSE programs. In a recent study by Guttmacher Institute, In Kenya, only 13 percent of surveyed students learned how to use contraception, while 66 percent wanted to learn more. Fewer than one in 10 surveyed students ages 15-17 had learned about all of the topics outlined in international CSE standards. Topics fit into five categories: sexual and reproductive physiology; HIV/STI prevention; contraception[Family Planning services] and unintended pregnancy; values and interpersonal skills; and gender, sexual and reproductive health rights.
Young people deserve accurate, complete sexuality education, it is their right, but abstinence-only teaching, myths and misconceptions are common. Numerous studies conducted on sexuality education have proven that programs that focus exclusively on abstinence for the prevention of pregnancy and STIs are not effective at improving adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. The reality is, adolescents are already sexually active, and they need the correct and accurate information and skills to keep themselves and their partners safe. Ideally they should be having this information before becoming sexually active. In all cases, young people have a right to receive information that is scientifically accurate and timely.
Inadequate training on comprehensive sexuality education is a significant obstacle to ensuring young people access the information they need. Educators can not be expected to successfully teach sensitive topics to young people without sufficient guidance and skills? A lack of training, teaching materials, resources and time were widely cited as barriers to the effective implementation of CSE.
Investing in and prioritizing the implementation of stronger CSE programs is a win-win for governments that seek to improve health outcomes, educational attainment and achieve gender equality. Governments should invest in national programs for CSE, ongoing training for educators and systems for monitoring the implementation of CSE to ensure delivery is effective. Successful CSE empowers young people and adolescents with knowledge and information they need to make informed choices and safeguard their well-being. It promotes more inclusive societies; reduces rates of unintended pregnancy, gender based violence and HIV/STI transmission; and empowers youth to live healthy lives.
Evidence is clear, it indicates that CSE is both needed and wanted, Now!
Programmes Officer at Family Health Options Kenya