More than 20 young people and journalists from across the Caribbean this morning October 26, 2019, began a workshop in Panama City, Panama, on how to combat the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in their part of the world.
The workshop comes at a time when the United Nations Population Fund advocates quality comprehensive sexuality education to empower children and young people to lead healthy, safe and productive lives.
Workshop Coordinator Flavia Cherry, prior to commencement, explained its importance in light of a growing realisation that some young people in Latin America and the Caribbean are unaware of the repercussions of an education that is lacking in sexual and re-productive health and reproductive rights in all their contexts.
She highlighted, for example, the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique, where a cursory view would reveal a negligible number of teenage pregnancies compared to other nearby countries.
She also spoke of the taboo approach to sex and all of its ramifications from parents, schools, churches and even some governments from across the region, calling for the promotion of policies for and the creation of investments in sexuality education programmes.
The workshop will be in line with what the United Nations has been preaching for quite some time in its promotion of advancing human rights, gender equality and improved sexual and reproductive health. It will, over the next two days, seek to foster respect for human rights and diversity; encourage critical thinking skills and young people’s participation in decision-making; communicate a positive, life-cycle approach to sexuality; and address gender inequality, vulnerabilities, exclusion and human rights violations.
The workshop will also focus on the importance of Comprehensive Sexuality Education from a youth perspective with the view that every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health.
Cherry notes that research shows that the majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.
“Comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity. Since these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people. We will share with participants, research undertaken as part of the Caribbean Right Here Right Now Youth Project. The training will also highlight the importance of implementing comprehensive sexuality education both in schools and communities. It will bring together key stakeholders whose experience and expertise in the subject and in advocacy will enrich discussions, as well as media professionals who can assist in creating greater awareness of the need for comprehensive sexuality education,” Cherry said.
According to the United Nations, comprehensive sexuality education is a rights-based and gender-focused approach to sexuality education, whether in school or out of school. But it also goes beyond information, helping young people to explore and nurture positive values regarding their sexual and reproductive health.