Why Young People Need Access To Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Young people have continued to bear the brunt of challenges facing the globe today. Be it unemployment, poverty, insecurity, lifestyle diseases among others. But none has been more pronounced like the reproductive health challenges.

That the young people occupy the largest demographic strata means that any nation planning to be alive and vibrant in the next phase of global development cannot afford to ignore this vital population.

Whereas policy makers and leaders have continued to grapple with how best to handle this crucial population in order to harness demographic dividends, no lasting solution has been found.

Comprehensive sexuality education is among those strategies that have been thrown at world governments as possible keys to calm the violent youth waters. And whereas some have run away with it, implementation in certain countries have been bogged down by template opposition remarks, religious rhetoric , cultural jingoism and weak political will keen to play populism in a ruthless elective process.

However, one thing that all agree on is that the adolescent child isn’t where they need to be. Young people cannot just be part of dark statistics in yet another government or civil society organization report. Young people can be more than number of female genital mutilation victims, or percentages of teenage pregnancies. They can be more than new HIV/AIDS infections or just number of unsafe abortion cases gone sour. They can be just people, people looking forward to a better tomorrow, healthy people waiting to take the world into a new realm of uninterrupted and accelerated global development.

However, for that to happen, things have to change. After all it’s only a mad man who keeps on doing things differently and expecting different results.

We can no longer be ignoring statistics staring us right into the face. According to Google Zeitgeist results, ‘What is sex?’ has featured prominently among the most asked question over the years. What this means is that whereas young people are actively seeking information on their sexuality, they lack a credible center where they can get all the information they need. What with a contemporary setting where the normal parent has to put in extra hours to afford a living for the family and a clergy still held back by the fear of smearing dirt on the pious altar.

Comprehensive sexuality education should not be seen as encouraging sex neither should it be seen as a foreign concept. It must be seen as an attempt to equip learners with information about benefits of delaying sexual debut and the importance of having safe sexual lives. Especially in the modern age where young girls no longer troop to their grandmothers’ houses at night to learn how to better women.

In 2013, the Ministries of Education from Eastern and Southern Africa committed to scale up Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health services. This was anchored in the Education Sector Policy of the same year that just outlined the critical role of empowering young people, especially girls to be able to make well informed choices. In the momentum of the launch of the ALL IN Campaign meant to end HIV/AIDS among adolescents, the Kenyan president also made directives to the ministry of health and education to end infections among this critical age group.

But directives, policy and ACTS, though important, isn’t the only thing that’s required. There’s need to translate our words into actions, our promises into deeds and our commitments into measurable deliverables.

 

 

 

 

ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq