UNESCO in collaboration with ministries of education and health from 33 Sub-Saharan African countries, launched the second phase of the landmark Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Programme on 15 June 2023 in Zanzibar. As the largest school-based programme on education for health and well-being in Africa, the ambitious O3 Programme plans to equip 44 million adolescents and young people with good quality, accurate, and rights-based sexuality education, and school violence prevention programmes. The programme aims to build adolescents and young people’s agency to make healthier and informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.
The O3 Programme responds to the region’s most pressing challenges. Young people (aged 10 to 24) constitute 32% of SSA's population, and they face significant obstacles such as high rates of school dropout, new HIV infections, gender-based violence (GBV), and early and unintended pregnancies (EUPs). While knowledge about HIV has improved, further progress is still needed to promote safe behaviour. According to the latest available DHS data, the percentage of adolescent girls and boys who correctly respond to five basic questions about HIV is below 40% in most countries. Gender disparities in education persist, with many children unable to access formal education or remaining out of school due to EUPs, child marriage, HIV, and GBV.
“We are grateful to Programmes like O3 and O3 PLUS and the generous support from funding partners, UNESCO and UN Zanzibar for joining hands with the government of Zanzibar to make our children excel in their education journey with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and competencies required for preventing HIV, reducing early and unintended pregnancies, and eliminating gender-based violence.” declared H.E. Lela Muhamed Mussa, Minister of Education and Vocational Training in Zanzibar.
The O3 Programme has made a profound difference during its first phase directly impacting over 34 million young people. Through comprehensive teacher training initiatives, over 500,000 teachers have been equipped to provide effective sexuality and life skills education. Focused on higher and tertiary education settings, the O3 PLUS project launched, in 2021 has benefited 88,000 students by addressing their unmet need for sexuality education and access to SRH services.
The launch of Phase 2, spanning from 2023 to 2027, reaffirms UNESCO's commitment to empowering children, adolescents, and young people in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), enabling them to thrive and contribute meaningfully to their communities and societies. In its second phase, the O3 Programme is placing a heightened emphasis on youth agency, parental engagement, social norms transformation, and community mobilisation while intensifying efforts to reach hard-to-reach young people, starting with those left furthest behind. The O3 and O3 Plus Programmes are made possible through the generous support of the governments of Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, and Ireland.