Regional partners have agreed that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in the Caribbean needs to be better. The conclusion is based on findings of a recent Formative Assessment Report that provides recommendations and identifies gaps in the Caribbean CSE through the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) Curriculum.
The report was launched on Monday, March 7 in Barbados, virtually and in person. It found that no Caribbean country is offering what could be considered truly comprehensive sexuality education. This, even though some countries have been doing extensive work to integrate CSE much more into the HFLE curriculum. Further, even those countries that are offering CSE in some way are often using out-of-date materials, language and content, or leaving the selection or development of this content up to individual teachers.
The assessment was conducted under the European Union (EU) funded Regional Spotlight Initiative, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
It was conducted by UNFPA Caribbean in collaboration with CARICOM, Academia and UN Agencies.
Speaking at the launch, UNFPA Caribbean Director, Alison Drayton said the assessment was timely as the environment for advancing HFLE has become less conducive due to progressive advocacy against sexuality education. She highlighted that evidence has shown that sexuality education that is age-appropriate, rights based, gender-sensitive and life skills-based, will provide young people with the knowledge, skills and efficacy to make informed decisions about their sexuality and lifestyle, and reduce unsafe sexual activity.
“It is my hope that the findings of the assessment will be used to strengthen regional and national capacities to advocate for and deliver quality, evidenced based CSE for in and out-of- school youth in the Caribbean,” Drayton said.
Other speakers at the event included CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Dr Douglas Slater who spoke on behalf of CARICOM Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett; Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska; and representative of the UN Women Multi-Country Office Caribbean, Tonni-Ann Brodber. An overview of HFLE in the Caribbean and the identified gaps and recommendations were provided by Dr Laurette Bristol, Programme Manager, Human Resource Development, CARICOM Secretariat and Dr Nicolette Henry from UNFPA.
The speakers shared similar sentiments on the value of CSE in contributing to human development and building society. According to Dr Slater, “strengthening the enabling environment and cultural re-education, should be among the list of options on the menu, from which we can select to build culturally relevant responses and programmes.”
Brodber expressed that: “Comprehensive sexuality education and young people receiving accurate information today is critical for a sustainable future.”
And Ambassador Wasilewska, while congratulating UNFPA and other partners on the report, stated that comprehensive sexuality education was a powerful tool for children to have increased self-confidence, critical thinking and the capacity to make informed decisions.
“I trust this is the starting point of a renewed sexuality education more inclusive and respectful of every child and every young person in the Caribbean, and you can count on my support to make the change happen” she said.
The findings will be used to strengthen regional capacities to advocate for and deliver quality, evidenced based CSE for in-school and out-of- school youth in the Caribbean as well as assist in the design of a regional CSE strategy for the formal education sector in the Caribbean. Through these initiatives young people will receive improved CSE services that can allow them to reach their full potential. The launch was held on the eve of International Women’s Day which is being commemorated under the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.