Sex Education, Participation and Young Women

Sex Education, Participation and Young Women

By: Anarchy

Universal and equal access to and completion of education for girls and young women is important. It’s not just about paying lip service to global standards for human right and gender, but most importantly it gives a collective meaningful role for men and women. Why is it important? Because we live in a world where there are obviously gender imbalances due to traditional discrimination or religious prejudices. Thus it makes girls more vulnerable than boys. Sex education is not about the “new age” culture of adolescence and puberty. Society has been pretty much quiet and reserve in the past, though we don’t really know how accurate that is with the exception that in those old days people don’t want  to talk about it openly or even candidly.

What has government and civil society done to eliminate discrimination against girls and young women related to their access to sex education? Its a difficult question as at times, government and civil society does not seem to be collaborating in their national or local campaigns, for example in basic sexual reproductive health events or reaching out with youth-friendly educational services to teenage girls. This is possibly due to the different approaches to juggle cultural and gender “sensitivities” which does hamper the effectiveness of raising awareness, much less in self-advocacy.

Sex education is not just about the “birds and the bees” nor is it specifically on how to prevent your teenage son from experimenting with himself. Sex education is simply about giving the opportunity for young people to participate in an education that is important to everyone regardless of age, ethnicity and gender. It is about empowerment of sharing ideas and working towards understanding the mental and physical health of young people, and listening to their concerns and needs. Young people must be comfortable and confident with their bodies.

Sex education, or in some countries referred as Reproductive Health Education (and Biology class?), is the life blood of a young person to enable them to make informed decision. So are these education materials and practises gender balanced? And another important question, does the education system eliminate barriers to the participation of girls and young women, including those that are married or pregnant? The fact is there is a gender imbalance in Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates: the rate of new infection is usually higher among young women than among young men. Infection rates among girls are increasing faster because of greater biological susceptibility, lack of financial security, forced and early marriage, rape and sexual abuse of young women.

This is not just about the responsibility of the government. Sex education is every one’s business. That’s a fact, a reality. Civil society and parents should strive to ensure that all primary healthcare and family planning facilities are able to provide the widest achievable range of sex education and contraceptive methods. But most importantly, the issue of participation and empowerment of young people. So why is youth participation important? Well, first of all – it is their right! Girls, just like boys, have the right to participate fully in society and to express their opinions about matters related to their lives — in this context, their sexuality, their needs and how to protect themselves in the most effective methods.

The government, family planning NGOs and society must enable a participatory environment. If girls are encouraged to fully participate in designing, implementing and evaluating sex education programmes, they will become more knowledgeable about their rights, and adopt more proactively safe relationship. By encouraging more young women to be involved, the programmes become more relevant to girls, empowering them, enabling them to understand the importance, for example in safer sex practises and avoiding unplanned pregnancies. Sex education should be fun, simple and engaging; do away with the “by-the-text-book approach”. With the much-need participation of girls and young women, society invest in their trust and respect towards them. This in turn is a worth while investment in a nation’s future.


Graphic sources: kiwifamilies | blackscientist | campusghanta



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