Sexuality education the key to positive and healthy relationships: UNGEI@20 Forum

Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their bodies, relationships, families, and life goals. Yet, many do not have the knowledge to make these decisions carefully. Comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to develop and sustain positive, healthy relationships and protect themselves from unsafe situations.

The critical importance of comprehensive sexuality education to education, health and well-being was discussed at Educate for Equality: UNGEI@20 Forum, at a session on bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health, on 14 October. Co-hosted by UNESCO and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), the event focused on why free, universal access to quality and inclusive comprehensive sexuality education needs to be a priority for education and health ministries.

Team Leader at UNESCO’s Section for Health and Education, Joanna Herat, said: “If we want to see sustained gender equality, we need to ensure that both girls and boys are receiving quality and comprehensive sexuality education. Only then will they be able to take charge of their own lives, bodies and fertility, and contribute to positive, healthy, respectful and kind societies.

As one of UNGEI’s partners, UNESCO has been working collaboratively towards achieving the Agenda 2030 goals on gender equality, health and education as well as the Beijing Platform for Action.

Speakers at the event, civil society and youth organizations as well as UNESCO colleagues, said it was time to shift our focus from an exclusive focus on academic outcomes in education towards a more holistic approach which recognizes the role that education plays in shaping every aspect of our lives, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. Video interviews with representatives from education ministries reinforced this message.

The Educate for Equality: UNGEI@20 Forum was held from 12th-16th October 2020, and organized around the six Generation Equality Action Coalitions which mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. The forum also marked 20 years since UNGEI was launched to promote collective action for girls’ education and gender equality. The forum focused on the six Action Coalition topics: gender-based violence; economic justice and rights; bodily autonomy and SRHR; feminist action for climate justice; technology and innovation; feminist movements and leadership.