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Turning taboo topics into interactive conversations

It's time to replace outdated methods for teaching family planning with quality sexuality education that invite young people to interactively participate.

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Tags: Ado Avance Ensemble, adolescents, comprehensive sexuality education, CSE, European Union, family planning, Meaningful and inclusive youth participation, SRHR, West Africa, youth-friendly

Although West Africa has the highest adolescent birth rates in the world, general knowledge about sexuality is low and young people often lack knowledge on how to protect themselves. Religious and cultural taboos hamper the provision of clear, accurate and age-appropriate sexuality education. To navigate cultural sensitivities, the topic has become a diplomatic minefield for those who teach it.

But when adolescents and young people lack access to quality sexuality education, they do not get the information they need to make informed, healthy decisions about their lives, relationships, and behaviors. And so, it is time to outdated methods for teaching family planning with accurate and sexuality education that invite young people to participate interactively .

Josias, project assistant for ABBF in Burkina Faso

Rodrigue, youth activity coordinator for AIBEF in Côte d’Ivoire:  “The difficulty in our country is that sexuality education is often not integrated into the national curriculum. And in schools where they teach it, it is certainly not done in an accessible and easy to understand way for the students.”

Josias, project assistant for ABBF in Burkina Faso (in the photo):

“In Burkina Faso, the topic is still very much taboo. When we talk about sexuality education, we need to use the term family life education. The way the topic is taught at school also feels quite outdated. Teachers tend to use a directive tone and rely on outdated methods to share knowledge.”

Reaching adolescents outside the classroom

Sexuality education is a powerful tool that can challenge harmful gender norms, stereotypes and practices that stand in the way of gender equality. Simonne Manzan, Ado Avance Ensemble’s (AAE) project coordinator for AIBEF in Côte d’Ivoire confirms this: “In Côte d’Ivoire, we see many girls dropping out of school, often due to an unintended pregnancy, child marriage, or poor sexual and reproductive health leading to HIV infections. And when these girls drop out of school, it becomes even harder to reach them with quality information on sexuality and reproductive health.”

Peer educators

AAE partners mobilise peer educators (peers include people that are in the same age group and community as those targeted by the programme)  to ensure that sexuality education is not only delivered in the classroom, but also during community sessions targeting adolescents, and especially girls that don’t attend school. Awawou Mbohou, president of the National Youth Forum in Cameroon explains that it is not always easy to organise these sessions. “It is quite difficult for us to get the parents’ consent before we can mobilise peer educators in their community. Also, we often run into resistance from religious leaders and community leaders. So, we need to get their buy-in before we can start our sessions. We offer them practical examples and stories from within their communities that highlight the negative effects of the lack of education, which often helps to become engaged,” Nono Gildas, communication focal point from CAMNAFAW in Cameroon explains.

Roadmap for sexuality education

Ado Avance Ensemble has developed a roadmap that will allow its partners to strengthen their approaches when it comes to sexuality education; inside and outside the classroom. Maeva Bonjour, Senior Technical Advisor for Rutgers explains how: “AAE partners have co-created a facilitation booklet with concrete suggestions on how to use interactive, youth-centered and inclusive approaches as part of their already existing sexuality education curricula and trainings. AAE is also building a regional pool of peer educators able to apply and teach the above-mentioned facilitation techniques to other trainers in their country.”

AAE trained 22 participants in Lome, Togo

Participants to the CSE trajectory in Togo, Ado Avance Ensemble
participants of the CSE trajectory in Togo, Ado Avance Ensemble

Train the trainer

To create this regional pool of highly qualified trainers, AAE trained 22 participants in Lome, Togo in February 2024. For Julienne Wouaga, president of the Youth Action Movement in Côte d’Ivoire, the training was relevant: “I am excited to try out the technique called learning by doing. This will allow participants to share their own experiences during a group conversation, making a session much more interactive.”

AIBEF in Côte d’Ivoire aims to reach 60,000 adolescents and young people with information and education about SRHR, using the skills acquired during the training. Simone Manzan, Ado Avance Ensemble’s project coordinator for AIBEF in Côte d’Ivoire (in the middle): “We will use this training to revise our own methodology for sexuality education and we will adapt some of the training techniques we used, to make sure our educators will be well-equipped to offer youth-friendly and interactive methods, both inside and outside the classroom!”



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