The spotlight continues to shine on the momentous 3rd Nigeria Conference on Adolescent and Youth Health and Development, EKO2023, as the event marches forward, igniting the torch of empowerment and innovation.
Set against the backdrop of the bustling Lagos State, this commendable programme, by SAYPHIN (Society for Adolescent and Young people’s health in Nigeria) held in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and esteemed partners, is ushering in a new era of youth well-being through Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Gender-Based Violence Prevention.
Themed “ACHIEVING 2030 TARGETS: DRIVING INNOVATION FOR ADOLESCENT AND YOUTH HEALTH,” the programme is a resolute call to action designed to enlighten, engage, and empower, continuing its mission to revolutionize youth health and development.
UNFPA, a leading force in promoting youth well-being, on the 3rd day of the summit, presented a comprehensive study titled “The Effect of Comprehensive Sexuality Education Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice of Adolescents and Young People to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Information and Services.”
Driven by the desire to enhance CSE delivery and SRH uptake, this study shed light on the impact of CSE on adolescents and stakeholders. Through presentations and fruitful discussions, challenges and opportunities were explored, setting the stage for constructive action.
Key Insights from the Study
Led by Dr. Adekemi Sekoni, Associate Professor and Consultant Public Health and Social Epidemiologist from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, the study evaluated CSE’s impact on knowledge, attitude, and the utilization of sexual and reproductive health information/services among adolescents and young people. It encompassed 939 students from vocational and technical colleges, unveiling significant insights into the effectiveness of CSE.
The CSE strategy, initiated in 2018, has undergone seven significant phases, including multi-level stakeholder meetings, curriculum drafting, validation, and comprehensive program monitoring and evaluation. The curriculum, developed in alignment with the Sexualty Education Review and Assessment Tool (SERAT) guidelines, features eight modules and twenty-eight topics. It has been introduced in 13 non-formal educational settings, benefiting nearly 8,000 out-of-school adolescents and young people aged 15-35, with an emphasis on reducing gender-based violence and fostering a safe learning environment.
A panel discussion, featuring Dr. Esther Oluwatosin Somefun, Mrs. Rashidat Umar, Mr. Olaleye Moroof Olaniyi, and Ms. Eniola Dorcas Olawoyin, provided valuable insights into the significance and impact of the CSE project. These panelists shared their experiences and perspectives, shedding light on the project’s significance and the broader implications for youth health and development.
Addressing the Information Gap
Mrs. Umar illuminated the pressing need for CSE, emphasizing the information gap prevalent among adolescents due to illiteracy and ignorance. “When you talk about decision-making in relationships, family planning, or life skills, a lot of them are lackingl,” she revealed. The development and delivery of the CSE curriculum emerged as a response to these challenges, aiming to equip young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate critical aspects of their lives.
Emphasizing the relatability of the initiative, Mrs. Umar noted, “We live in the same community, we have the same challenges, our bodies are not different.” This shared understanding prompted the creation of the CSE strategy. The project’s inception was marked by a high-level advocate and task force meeting, which paved the way for its widespread acceptance. A test review led by young people was instrumental in identifying the specific needs and challenges of the target audience. Subsequent phases involved technical development, curriculum creation, and training, all of which were supported by robust partnerships and collaboration.”
Unveiling the Transformative Power: Insights from the Frontline
Dr. Adekemi Sekoni, Associate Professor and Consultant Public Health Physician and Social Epidemiologist from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, highlighted the impact of the CSE curriculum on out-of-school youths. Dr. Sekoni articulated the ongoing effort to scientifically measure the curriculum’s influence on the lives of these youths, underscoring its role in shaping their decisions and behaviors.
Navigating Challenges, Inspiring Change: A Ground-Level Perspective
Mr. Olaleye Moroof Olaniyi, an Instructor at Government Technical College Agidingbi, shared his journey from the project’s inception to its execution. He emphasized the curriculum’s practicality and effectiveness, revealing that instructors meticulously followed and provided manuals for optimal course delivery. Over time, the project gained traction, with instructors contributing their insights and experiences to enhance the curriculum’s impact. The initial challenges faced during the introduction of the CSE strategy were eventually surmounted, leading to stress-free classes and more engaged students.
Empowerment in Action: Youth Voices
Ms. Eniola Dorcas Olawoyin, an Adolescent Learner from the Garment Section at Government Technical College Agidingbi, provided a unique perspective from the practical side. She described how CSE has significantly enriched her understanding of critical topics. Ms. Olawoyin’s experience reflects the transformative potential of the initiative, as she now possesses enhanced knowledge and decision-making skills, particularly in navigating gender roles and norms.
Towards a Sustainable Future
Dr. Esther Oluwatosin Somefun, Gender/Reproductive Health Analyst at UNFPA, shed light on the project’s sustainability. She revealed that the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development has embraced the initiative, ensuring its continuity beyond its UNFPA roots. Moreover, plans to create a braille version of the curriculum and expand its reach to those with visual impairments underscore the initiative’s inclusivity and far-reaching impact.
A Step Towards a Healthier Future
The conference underscored the role of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in shaping a healthier, informed future for adolescents and young people. The unwavering commitment of UNFPA in partnership with collaborators, highlights a shared dedication to ensuring crucial knowledge reaches those who need it most.
This initiative isn’t just about education; it’s about empowerment. By equipping young individuals with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, we’re paving the way for a brighter and healthier tomorrow.