UNESCO officially launched the Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Programme in Malawi in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Education and Technology and the Norwegian Embassy in Lilongwe on 10 October 2019. The launch culminated in the agreement signing ceremony between UNESCO and the Government of Norway to accelerate the O3 programme.
The O3 launch was attended by UNESCO’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. William Susuwele Banda, the, the Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Steinar Egil Hagen, and the UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres Macho. Representatives from civil society organisations and the media were present along with students, teachers and parents at the Mphungu Primary School in Lilongwe.
Since the commencement of the O3 programme in Malawi, the government has been an instrumental partner in advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights to its population. Despite these notable measures, over 70% of new HIV infections are among young women (15-19 years). Pregnancy and childbirth complications continue to be the leading cause of death among young women in Malawi.
The Norwegian Ambassador, Steinar Egil Hagen stated “we are today at the starting point of an important partnership, with our friends in the Malawi government, and with the UN-family and working on an important topic, comprehensive sexuality education”…”together, we can make a difference for children in Malawi”.
The funding provided by the Norwegian government will allow Malawi to deepen the scope of existing activities to attain full-scale implementation of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) supported by inter-sectoral partners and UNESCO Malawi.
“As we sign the Agreement for this project, we are making a public declaration that now more than ever, we need to transform the lives of children and young people. We are saying we want to work together in eradicating these challenges. Eradicating gender-based violence, early and unintended pregnancy, reduce new HIV infections, and increase young people’s knowledge” said Prof. Gijzen, UNESCO’s Regional Director.
UNESCO has been working across the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents and young people through scaling up CSE. The provision and access to CSE resources are expected to promote and sustain risk-reducing behaviour among young people.