When in school, we remember that sexual education mostly consisted of learning about the human body and our reproductive organs. But for many young people, that was about it. For others, there was no sexual education at all. In organisations working with SRHR, comprehensive sexual education has been on the agenda for quite some time, for some very important reasons. Learning about our reproductive organs is not enough for young people to be enabled to take informed decisions about their body, sexual and reproductive health. Youth need to know about how they can keep themselves safe and healthy, and how to build meaningful, equal and respectful relationships. They need to know how to establish and respect boundaries, and to understand the changes that happen in their bodies. All this information needs to be age-appropriate and culturally adapted to the local context. In addition, comprehensive sexual education is built on a rights-based approach, meaning that it focuses on knowing your rights and how this affects our daily life. It involves knowledge about human rights as well as exploring our gender roles. In fact, comprehensive sexual education helps us build our life skills.
Access to comprehensive sexual education means learning about how to stay healthy and avoid sexually transmitted infections and diseases. It means learning about family planning, the benefits of planning if, when and how many children you want. It means learning about contraceptives, how they work, what they protect us against and which one is the most suitable for you personally. Comprehensive sexual education means learning where to go if you need health services, the importance of skilled health personnel during childbirth, and follow up during pregnancies.
Lack of information about sexual and reproductive health is a hindrance to our development as humans. When we are knowledgeable and confident about our own bodies and health, we have laid down the first brick in a foundation we will build our lives on. This can help us avoid early, unwanted pregnancies, easily unavoidable STIs, and unsafe sexual experiences. When young girls and boys learn about what happens to their bodies and minds during puberty, they are better equipped to deal with these changes. This might in turn lead to more young girls and boys finishing their education, less spreading of sexually transmitted diseases and less gender-based violence.