Integrating Gender and Rights into Sex and HIV Education

Population Briefs, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Integrating Gender and Rights into Sex and HIV Education


Our field needs to do a better job at sex and HIV education," says Population Council social scientist Nicole Haberland. "Very few curricula actually demonstrate that they can have an effect on unintended pregnancy or on sexually transmitted infections. We see stronger results with those few curricula that emphasize gender and power issues." Hence, policymakers and international organizations have requested help in educating young people about sex, HIV, and family life in a way that is gender-equitable and rights-based.

A new two-volume kit-developed by the Population Council and several partner organizations and published by the Council--responds to that call. The kit, titled It's All One Curriculum: Guidelines and Activities for a Unified Approach to Sexuality, Gender, HIV, and Human Rights Education, draws on research findings about the factors (such as gender norms) that drive sexual behavior. It also reflects international agreements calling for sexuality education and gender equality.

"Several education policymakers have told us that the kit's emphasis on dignity and rights will be politically more acceptable than a narrower emphasis on sexuality," says Haberland, who edited the volumes along with Council consultant Deborah Rogow.

It's All One Curriculum was developed by an international working group of seven organizations--CREA, Girls Power Initiative, International Planned Parenthood Federation, IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region, International Women's Health Coalition, Mexfam, and Population Council. Review and testing of activities involved close to 100 experts worldwide. These specialists worked to ensure that the kit's perspective and content are relevant and appropriate for educating young people globally: from Africa to the Pacific, from Asia to the Americas, and from Europe to the Arab World.

Volume 1 of the kit has eight content units, each with learning objectives and key information. The first two units cover human rights and gender. These issues inform the following units, which cover sexuality; relationships; communication; the body; and sexual and reproductive health, including HIV and contraception--all with a strong gender perspective. A final advocacy unit helps students make a small difference in their own communities. The content in Volume 1 is supplemented by reflection questions in the margins, 22 fact sheets, and by 54 participatory activities compiled in Volume 2. Spanish and French versions of the kit are nearing publication.

"The kit was designed as a flexible resource, so that curriculum developers in diverse settings can easily understand the content and extract the level of detail they need to meet their local goals. Early feedback we have received is that it succeeds in that aim," says Rogow.

Improving adolescents' lives

Educators can use this resource to help their programs increase adolescents':

* ability to make responsible decisions and act upon their own choices;

* ability to participate in society and exercise their human rights;

* critical thinking and overall educational achievement;

* sense of control over their lives; and

* sense of sexual well-being and enjoyment. …

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