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