Over 50 policy makers and experts from Europe and Central Asia region and representatives of UN organizations met in Stockholm on August 30-31, 2018 to assess the progress made and accelerate the implementation of the Action Plan for Sexual and Reproductive health: Towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Europe – leaving no one behind.
The Action Plan was endorsed by 53 Member States of the WHO European Region in 2016. It provides a comprehensive framework of actions to ensure that all people are achieving their full potential for sexual and reproductive health and well-being. Among many recommended interventions, the Action Plan underscores the importance of good quality comprehensive sexuality education that provides gender-, age- and development stage-appropriate, scientifically accurate and comprehensive teaching and learning on sexual and reproductive health and relations issues.
UNESCO IITE and the German Centre for Health Education (BZgA) – WHO Collaborating Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Europe were invited to the meeting to facilitate a special session on sexuality education.
Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor, and Christine Winkelmann, Head of HIV and STI Prevention Unit from BZgA, made a joint presentation on the history of sexuality education, its historical and current definitions and standards. They focused on the new revised edition of the UN International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education released in 2018 and the Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe developed by WHO/Europe and BZgA back in 2010.
Laura Brockschmidt (BZgA) debriefed the participants on the current status of sexuality education in 25 European countries based on a recently published report Sexuality Education in Europe and Central Asia.
To set common ground for a panel discussion, Tigran Yepoyan made a brief overview of several online resources for sexual and reproductive health and HIV literacy promotion developed in European and Central Asian countries.
Then, the panelists from Armenia, Sweden and Ukraine provided examples of SRH literacy promotion among different population groups and spoke about the approaches, achievements and challenges in sexuality education delivery in schools.
Dr. Marina Melkumova (Armenia) told about the first Armenian website and Facebook community for adolescents on relationships, sexual and reproductive health developed with UNESCO support. “This website and edutainment videos about contraception, HIV prevention, decision making and other issues help teachers deliver sexuality education lessons more efficiently and students appreciate that,” said Dr. Melkumova.
Dr. Galina Maistruk (Ukraine) told about several projects implemented by Women Health and Family Planning Charitable Foundation to improve the quality of school-based sexuality education, empower parents to discuss sexual and reproductive health related issues with their growing children and raise sexual and reproductive health literacy among general population.
Dr. Robert Jonzon (Sweden) shared the experience of Swedish Public Health Agency in raising awareness among immigrant population about sexual and reproductive health issues and informing them about where and how they can access relevant health services.
“We cannot leave young people unprepared to enter adult life, without being equipped with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values which would help them to protect themselves and their loved ones from STIs, unintended pregnancy, violence and other threats to their health and well-being, but also to live life to the fullest, enjoy their sexuality, enjoy their rights. And that is why sexuality education is a must. There is a lot to do across the region, especially in those countries where sexuality education has not yet become part and parcel of the core curriculum in schools.”
Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO Regional HIV and Health Education Advisor.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights and universal health coverage is absolutely critical… Firstly, it has to be universal. We cannot have anyone left behind regardless of age, sexual orientation, income. Secondly, the health services have to be comprehensive and wherever possible integrated. And thirdly, … people have to have access to the best quality services and care.”
Ian Askew, Director, Department of Reproductive Health, WHO HQs.
The meeting was organized by the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten), UNFPA Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and WHO Office for Europe. More information about the meeting is available here.
Participants’ interviews are available here.