UNESCO IITE supports sexuality education programme for parents in Belarus
UNESCO IITE, in partnership with the Minsk-based, adolescent-friendly health centre “Doverie” (“Trust”) and the Minsk Municipal Education Development Institute have initiated a parent education programme to assist parents in staying connected with their adolescent children and providing support to help them grow up happy and healthy.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is often prone to many risks. In order to appear grown up, gain acceptance from their peers, or simply out of curiosity, many adolescents look for new experiences, some of which may be unsafe. While exploring their own limits and abilities, as well as the boundaries set by parents and society, they may begin smoking and drinking, experimenting with drugs and participating in unprotected sexual activity. The latter may result in an unintended pregnancy and/or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV.
In the absence of comprehensive sexuality education at school, the role of parents in providing correct and timely information about healthy relationships becomes even more important. However, many parents feel unprepared to discuss sexuality and sexual relationships with their children. Therefore, UNESCO’s regional health education programme based at UNESCO IITE and “Doverie” adolescent-friendly health centre in Minsk have initiated a programme to improve parents’ ability to speak to their children with confidence about puberty, romantic and sexual relationships, love, friendship, values and how to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary risks.
Over 50 parents from various schools in Minsk benefited from the first round of one-day workshops facilitated by Valentina Shukan, the coordinator and lead youth counsellor from “Doverie”. Almost all parents named “sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents and non-violent relationship building” as the most interesting issue discussed at the workshop. Gender identity and gender roles were also among discussion topics of the utmost importance, as well as how to talk to adolescents about sexual relationships, contraception, and HIV and STI prevention.
In addition to training for parents, UNESCO also supported a workshop for 35 educators from 15 schools to discuss the benefits of sexuality education and train them to facilitate parent education sessions on sexuality education for children. Most teachers agreed that after this training, they felt more confident in their ability to discuss “sensitive” issues with students and their parents. They also agreed to conduct parent-teacher meetings and thematic sessions for parents on sexuality education and distribute booklets specially developed for parents, entitled “An Open Conversation about Sexuality Education and Reproductive Health” with UNESCO’s support.
This pilot project is the first of its kind in Belarus with the support of UNESCO. On 10 June 2016, Valentina Shukan spoke about the project on CTV, one of the national TV channels in Belarus.
The second round of trainings will take place in September 2016. It is expected that by the end of the project, over 80 teachers will be prepared to conduct sexuality education sessions, which will benefit the 1,000 or more parents who are expected to attend.
The booklet “An Open Conversation about Sexuality Education and Reproductive Health” is available in Russian.