Formulating advocacy messages on Comprehensive Sexuality Education: How do you make it?

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is inevitably a part of human rights. A good CSE will help young people to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life with adequate knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they need to make informed choices. A lot of research and studies have shown that CSE can help young people to abstain from or delay the debut of sexual relations; reduce the frequency of unprotected sexual activity; reduce the number of sexual partners; and increase the use of protection against unintended pregnancy, STIs and HIV during sexual intercourse.[1]

Within the context of the South-East Asia region, some countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have not started providing sexuality education as part of their school curriculum. On the other hand, in Vietnam, there are attempts to integrate sexuality education with some limitations which mostly focuses only on HIV and AIDS prevention.[2] There are still gaps in providing a Comprehensive Sexuality Education for young people and it is our chance to advocate filling these gaps. An advocacy effort to integrate CSE within the school curricula is a must.

The question is: How to formulate advocacy message for CSE, particularly to the government and relevant stakeholders? Here are some tools that you can use in developing an advocacy plan for CSE:

1. Use simple and more acceptable language: Family and Life skills education

Comprehensive sexuality education is quite a new term and the word ‘sexuality’ is somehow perceived as a taboo word. Some countries have used softer words such as family and life skills education. The content is actually the same and it is just named differently. This has been done in Thailand, where sexuality education has been taught in school since 1978 under the term ‘Life and Family Studies’. The content within this curricula is very much focused on reproductive system and personal hygiene.[3]

2. CSE program is a cost-effective program which can improve young peoples health

In 2010, UNESCO conduct a cost and cost-effectiveness study in six countries. This study showed that sexuality education does save cost. It also improves young people’s health outcomes, including reductions in unintended pregnancy, HIV infections and other STIs.[4] The outcome of the study is important for us, as we can use it to advocate among the governments to invest more in CSE within school curricula.

3. CSE is one of the commitments that must be fulfilled by the Government, it links with Millennium Development Goals.

Firstly we need to find out whether our governments are committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. If it is yes, then it is a political commitment made by them within the context of international relation to support these goals. CSE is linked with Millennium Development Goals point 2, 3, 5, and 6.[5]

MDGs 2: Achieve universal primary education

Introducing CSE within primary education helps young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies and other reproductive and sexual health problems.

MDGs 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

CSE curricula that offers specific topics such as gender role, sexuality, equality will empower young people especially young women to take control of their sexual and reproductive health and make decision related to their relationship. These topics will also help to sensitize young men on gender equality and to play a supportive role in promoting gender equality.

MDGs 5: Improve maternal health

CSE can help to achieve this goal by two ways. Firstly, by helping young women take control over their sexual and reproductive lives. It can reduce unwanted pregnancies and create a safer environment for childbearing. Secondly, comprehensive sexuality education can increase demand for and access to health services, including safe abortion services that are affordable, accessible, confidential and non-judgmental.

MDGs 6: Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases

CSE is undoubtedly an effective prevention strategy to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs. Aside from this, the issues of stigma and discrimination can be addressed. This will help young people feel more comfortable in accessing health services, particularly YKAP (Young Key Affected Population) such as young injected drug users, young men who have sex with men, young transgender, young sex workers, and young people living with HIV and AIDS

[1] International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers, and health educator. UNESCO. 2009

[2] Reclaiming and Redefining Rights: Thematic Studies Series 1, Sexuality and Rights in Asia. ARROW. 2011

[3] Reclaiming and Redefining Rights: Thematic Studies Series 1, Sexuality and Rights in Asia. ARROW. 2011

[4] School-based Sexuality Education Programmes: A cost and cost-effectiveness analysis in six countries. UNESCO. 2011

[5] From evidence to action: Advocating for comprehensive sexuality education, IPPF July 2009


Let the music unite us in combating HIV and AIDS!

What can music do to set our world free from HIV and AIDS? We agree that music is a universal  language and it can cross any borders in combating HIV and AIDS as a global pandemic. VFHA, Vanuatu Family Health Association, our Member Association from Vanuatu has combined a music competition, Reggae Faea, with a campaign to end HIV and AIDS in Port Vila. This event was organised by young people to campaign for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues affecting young people in their community.

Before conducting this event, the organiser worked with many stakeholders. This event was intended not only to promote SRHR but also to support local unreleased bands! Besides that, young people from VFHA also worked to find sponsors to make sure Reggae FAEA can be held with  sufficient funding. Reggae Faea is a Youth initiative that is born under the Vanuatu Family Health Association’s Port Vila Project Site and is organized and run by youth volunteers. This project initiative is a good evidence that showcase good cooperation with young people is a must to strengthen youth  adult partnership.

Reggae Faea is an annual event in Vanuatu and is determined to be developed and upgraded in the years to come. Each year local bands are allowed to compose a song based on a given theme. The songs are judged by four judges, 2 experienced health professionals & 2 professional musicians.

This year’s  theme was “Getting to Zero” which is in line with the World AIDS Day’s theme. The winner of the competition was Young Life, received a 3 year term shield + 25,000VT (271 USD) Cash, followed by Tribal Chant with 15,000VT (162 USD) and Konserners with 10,000VT (108 USD).

The success of this event was achieved through the commitment of hard working youth volunteers  and with the cooperation of generous Sponsors and working partners. Thanks to PDF ( Pacific Development Foundation), The Vanuatu Ministry of Health HIV and AIDS unit, World AIDS day donors, Fes Napuan, Master Sounds, VFHA administration, MP Ralph Regenvanu, Naviti Internet Café, Paradise FM, Wilco, FM 107, The Reggae Faea Committee, Volunteers,  and Participating bands mentioned below and the crowd that swarmed in big groups to  be the audience!

Participants for this year were: Young Life, Konserners, Masamp crews, Shanty towns, Cool System, Antz in Tokyo, Tribal Chant, Ruff Haus, Smol Haus, Reggae Royalties & Lady Jersenals. What else can you do with music, guys?  😀

Support young people leadership on HIV and AIDS!

When it comes to youth leadership, what  is the first thing thatcomes to  your mind? Some people say that youth leadership is very much relevant to young people who mostly travel to other countries. Do you think so? Thursday, 8th December 2011 night, in a small coffee shop in Selangor, we conducted a discussion to give our input to CrowdOutAIDS. It was attended by four young men aged 19-24 and the discussion was very vibrant and dynamic!

Our discussion was lead by Firdaus from FRHAM (Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia), he’s a youth leader and also one of the Regional Council Youth Member of IPPF ESEAOR. In this discussion, he invited his friend and we talked much about young people’s involvement and leadership particularly within the HIV AIDS movement in Malaysia.

Firdaus informed  that the Malaysia government in the past had conducted  a very big event to invite one million young people to gather in “Perhimpunan Sejuta Belia”, it was a  government initiative to approach young people. But they noted that when working with young people, the common problem is the project would be conducted by adults and most of these project do  not sustain for a longer period because of lack of youth involvement in the decision making process.

The participants in this gathering, revealed that young people in Malaysia still lack knowledge toward HIV AIDS. It is a taboo to talk about sex and in addition it is weird for young people, particularly boys to join HIV AIDS movement or programs. Culturally it is a norm that adults  do not  listen or give importance to young people’s opinions on many issues , which makes materializing youth adult partnership very difficult. .

One of the ideas proposed was to work with the media and expression via music to promote and raise youth’s awareness toward HIV and AIDS. Aside from that, partnership with private companies is a must since they have the power to reach a lot of working youth.

These vibrant young people from Malaysia  have made an action to combat HIV AIDS. Can you think of an action that can be made in your country, guys?