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South Africa is among 31 countries that will benefit from the UNESCO O3 Programme on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). The regional programme entitled, “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” is a three year (2018-2020) programme which aims to contribute towards reductions in new HIV infections, early and unintended pregnancies, gender based violence and child marriages.

South Africa is among the focus countries for this programme together with Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Networking countries include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Funded by Sweden and Ireland to the tune of about US$10 million, the programme builds on the achievements of the landmark 2013 East and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment, which has been instrumental in scaling-up comprehensive sexuality education and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young people. It will also share lessons and lay the basis for a similar political commitment in West and Central Africa in order to accelerate the implementation of CSE in that region.

As part of the programme, Sweden’s Minister of Education, Honourable Gustav Fridolin visited South Africa from 12-13 January 2018 to raise political attention to young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, including young people’s access to comprehensive sexuality education. Other delegates who were part of the mission to South Africa include the Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Education Ms Barbara Asher, the SADC Secretariat, and senior government officials from Cote d’Ivoire and Swaziland.

During his visit, the Minister attended a youth dialogue on teen pregnancy in Johannesburg to create a better understanding of challenges faced by young people when they fall pregnant. At the end of the dialogue, there was a strong recommendation to bring parents on-board with regards to CSE and engagement of other sectors such as the religious sector. The Minister then had another dialogue with religious leaders in Pretoria that looked at the role of communities and religious leaders in CSE delivery.

He also attended a high-level policy dialogue on CSE organised by the Department of Basic Education in Pretoria.  The dialogue renewed participants’ understanding and engagement on CSE implementation across Sub-Saharan Africa. Ministerial collaboration to promote school and health facility linkages were also discussed.

The O3 programme will support the delivery of good quality CSE that empowers adolescents and young people, while developing the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and competencies needed to sustain positive education, health and gender equality outcomes. Between 2018 and 2020, the O3 programme will reach 10.7 million learners in 45 000 primary and secondary schools, 30 000 pre-service teachers and 186 000 in service teachers. An additional 30 million people (parents, guardians, religious leaders, and young people out of school) will be reached through community engagement activities and 10 million young people through social and new media platforms.

UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNFPA and the government of Cote d’Ivoire hosted a session on the Revised International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE). This session took place on the side lines of the 2017 International Conference on AIDS and Sexuality Transmitted Infection’s in Africa (ICASA).

The session was moderated by Dr Catherine Sozi, UNAIDS Director of the Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa (RTESA) and graced by Honourable Kandia Camara –  Cote d’Ivoire Minister of National Education & Technical Education, Honourable Mokhele Moletsane – Lesotho Minister of Education & Training, Honourable Michael Lopuke Lotyam – South Sudan Undersecretary of General Education and Instruction and Ms Lorence Kabasele – African Youth and Adolescents Networking on Population and Development (AfriYAN) President for Eastern and Southern Africa.

During the session, UNESCO underscored the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, and acknowledged the Guidance as a means to address and dispel myths and misconceptions around comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). It was noted that the ITGSE incorporates new evidence on the benefits of CSE for health and education outcomes of children and young people. Further, the revised version speaks to issues of a changing world such as ICTs and social media as avenues through which CSE can be taught to young people and adolescents; and shows how CSE is not only limited to the formal school setting but also extends to non-formal settings which involve community engagement from the parents to the cultural and religious leaders.

Every two years, the Ministry of Culture organizes the National Cultural Festival in the province of Inhambane in Mozambique. The festival hosts domestic and international artists, cultural agents, and practitioners for a weeklong celebration of diversity. This year, the festival took place from the 13th to 20th of August and included HIV/AIDS awareness workshops that were jointly organized by UNESCO and UNFPA and led by Associação Coalizão da Juventude Moçambicana.

By focusing on scaling up Comprehensive Sexuality Education and capacity building in Eastern and Southern Africa, the workshops provided participants access to high quality sexuality education, increasing their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights. About 50 young people attended each workshop, which were led by Associação Coalizão da Juventude Moçambicana, an NPO that works in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Health for adolescents and youth, and whose focus is primarily on young girls, HIV/AIDS and gender issues.

“The workshops raised awareness on various issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health and on emerging issues related to HIV and AIDS prevention. Sessions were interactive and encouraged participants to make confident and educated decisions about their sexual health. Young people learned and practiced how to use both male and female condoms and were able to speak freely and contribute to discussions,” said Angelina Tivane with UNESCO.

“The Festival provided an opportunity to host these important workshops on Comprehensive Sexuality Education. The sessions highlighted important issues that directly effect young people in Mozambique, issues such as sexuality and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS prevention.”

The National Cultural Festival showcases the contemporary and ethnic heritage of Mozambique, as well as the commitment of the State to cultural diversity and to programmes, such as Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Going forward, a level of collaboration and innovation with other sectors, such as industry, commerce and finance, will further solidify the country’s commitment to the economy of cultural production, but also national development.