Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Information

By Victoria Nnesa

As the world is rapidly becoming more complex, with many children maturing earlier and being exposed to competing sources of information, the need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Information (CSE &I ) has become urgent. There is a growing need to ensure that children are being equipped with the necessary knowledge , skills and information regarding their sexuality in order for them to be in a better position to navigate the present and the future. Families, schools and religious institutes have a key role to play.

The overall goal of the workshop was to ensure that religious leaders, parents and young people are jointly engaged in comprehensive sex and reproductive health education to enable young people to enjoy their sexual health and rights in a safe and responsible manner. The workshop was jointly sponsored by INERELA, Save The Children and UNESCO.

Workshop objectives

  • Provide accurate information and knowledge on CSE, its importance and benefits to young people in their congregations;
  • Identify entry points, content, teaching strategies, methodologies, tools and resources materials that can be used for the delivery of culturally sensitive and age-appropriate CSE to youth at places of worship;
  • Acknowledge how personal values, beliefs, biases can influence the teaching of life-skills, gender and human-rights-based comprehensive sexuality education and the importance of recognising and preventing if/when one’s personal values are negatively affecting the quality of CSE being provided to learners;
  • Describe the process oriented approach to sexuality, gender, HIV and SRHR for effective CSE&I in congregational settings;
  • Map out stakeholders that will be needed to roll out CSE at congregational level; and
  • Identify strategies and develop a work plan for rolling out the skills acquired, monitor and evaluate the roll out of CSE at country level through INERELA structures

An overview of the evidence and factors impacting on young people’s SRH needs and rights in the ESA region

Every child should have access to education as their fundamental right. Schools are ideal for comprehensive sexuality education. Noted is that primary schools start off with 100% enrolment at 1st grade of which 14% make it to secondary education with high numbers of dropouts being girls. Education strengthens resilience, reduces gender based violence, decreases teenage pregnancies and decreases rate of HIV. Young people who are in school are less likely to engage in sexual activity and increase the chances of contraceptive use. Less than 33 % of women across Eastern Southern Africa have sufficient knowledge on prevention of HIV.

 Nyasha’s story…

  • Is in her second year of secondary school.
  • Lives with her mother and father and 5
  • Attends church and Sunday school belongs to the girls association
  • Is a happy girls and enjoys the company of her friends
  • Everything changes when Nyasha falls pregnant
  • Drops out of school.

What could have been done differently by Nyasha, her boyfriend, parents, schools, church

  • good quality CSE (including pregnancy, prevention, and contraception)
  • the right to education (development & effective implementation of re-entry policies)
  • increasing adolescent access to health education & services (incl. contraception) through establishment of referral system btw schools & health facilities
  • eliminating stigma & discrimination toward pregnant/childbearing girls in schools & communities
  • more time with the children to give them age appropriate CSE &I.

We all have a role to play and we need to ensure that messages given to young people at home are replicated at home and at church. Young people need us to listen and talk to them about what is happening in their lives; They need to feel secure and loved . We should always reflect back to when we were young people and try to understand their situations before being judgemental. They need to understand that their rights come with responsibility; important to focus on the future; the need for role models. Schools need to provide environments that are safe for young people; free from stigma and discrimination. We need to recognise the right to education even for learners who fall pregnant

Sexuality in Africa / spirituality and sexuality

Sexuality is part of one’s identity (feelings, thoughts and behaviour) , orientation, expression and attraction. Sexuality can be shaped and influenced by culture, religion and education but it is something that one is born with.

Spirituality is a connection one has to a divine source/ inner voice. Religion is for those that require guidance from others in their spirituality. It has dogmatic and unquestionable rules. Religion is sometimes threatening and terrifying and may be used to suppress sexuality. Religious leaders may use scripture as a bias to control their congregation.

Practical steps on order to integrate spirituality and sexuality, Entry points:

  • Creative messages to give information on CSE &I
  • Youth activities ; games, clubs
  • Parent organisations


Started with a reflection of previous day and devotion in Islam from Sheikh Maulidi from Malawi . He disregarded extremist groups and preached a message of love despite different backgrounds.

Religion And Sexuality: Report on faith based responses to children’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education And Information.

A study was done on religious leaders and CSE&I in Eastern and Southern Africa in May and June 2015. The aim of the study was to

  • Establish views of theologians in various communities of faith on CSE&I
  • Establish current trends in CSE&I within faith communities.
  • Undertake a comparative analysis of how different faith communities are responding to CSE&I
  • Provide evidence of children’s access to CSE&I within religious settings
  • Provide recommendations on how religious leaders could enhance CSE&I within faith communities.

The study established that faith communities have many positive characteristics that could be utilised to roll out and promote CSE&I for children. These include ownership of health facilities, existing structures, potential to use sacred text creatively to support CSE&I. Religious leaders are power brokers in communities and nations who enjoy a lot of trust from the congregation

Training religious leaders in CSE&I in Africa (ESA region) has notable impact on awareness. Notable barriers were doctrines, perceptions and traditions.

The UNAIDS fast track Agenda ; current status of the epidemic in Eastern Southern Africa .

The key populations identified to be at high risk of HIV infection were the sex workers, I.V drug users and men who have sex with men (MSM). The goal of the Fast Track Agenda is 90% of those infected with HIV knowing their status, 90% of those infected on treatment , 90% of those on treatment reaching viral suppression. The Eastern southern religious leaders are called to action to commit them to support fast track because they are champions in society; social capital.

Linking sexuality to HIV prevention

Human development occurs along different dimensions ; physical, cognitive and mental, emotional, social and moral/spiritual. The same dimensions exist in children. 60% of people have sex for social reasons, 25% for psychological reasons and 15 % for physical reasons. 80% of HIV infections are transmitted sexually, 18% mother to child transmissions and 2% via other methods. The drivers of HIV infections are:

  4. MTCT

Linking sexual and reproductive health and rights is the key to reducing HIV infection . Sex should be happy, healthy and safe before, during and after. The most vulnerable groups in communities included women and girls, those living with disability , track drivers, sex workers etc. what prevention intervention can you get involved in at congregational level?

Different suggestions included intergenerational dialogues, youth clubs, parents clubs and community based organisations with different activities as entry points.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Sexuality entails sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, reproduction, fantasies and desires. Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about such important topics as identity and relationships. CSE &I promotes human rights, values , knowledge , skills and gender equality.

Comprehensive sexuality Education must be scientifically accurate, age appropriate , culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and life skills based. The goal for CSE&I is for children and young people to be equipped with knowledge ,skills, and values to make responsible choices about their sexual and social relationships in a world affected by HIV. The components of CSE&I include puberty, reproductions, values, love, family, gender identity amongst a few.

Values underlying CSE&I include non-judgmental, positive , recurrent, non-normative, realistic and affirmative.

Process oriented approach

Adopted by Save the Children as an approach to sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health rights. It is targeted at the adult community , which is critical stakeholder in Comprehensive sexuality education and information discourse . The key to this approach is about changing mind sets regarding issues of sexuality and gender, to internalise thinking about these issues and to challenge entrenched ways of thinking. Sexuality education must include more than just facts and information, because people’s perception and behaviour relating to sexuality are deeply rooted , complex and need to be addressed. The approach is comprehensive, meaning that a broad range of topics are covered.

Rights Based Approach to CSE and Child Rights Programming

The UNCRC (Children’s Right Charter) is built on 4 general principles ; non-discrimination, the best interest of the child , right to be heard and the right to life, survival and development. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child ( ACRWC) has been inspired by the UN CRC and recognises and affirms the rights contained in the UN CRC. It takes into account the cultural context and addresses certain African-specific concerns.

Since children are human beings, all instruments/ documents that talk about human rights also apply to children. A rights-based approach to development is often defined by contrasting it with a needs-based approach. They are both based on a desire to help people survive and develop to their full potential. They both seek to identify a range of assistance and actions that are needed to achieve this. Where they differ is in their underlying assumptions and the implications of these assumptions for programming. A need is something every child expresses naturally because it contributes to their development. With the rights based approach people have legally established claims and entitlements as such a rights based approach holds stakeholders accountable.

Strategies for scaling up CSE delivery in religious platforms

Each country team came up with ways in which comprehensive sexuality education can be scaled up in their individual countries. Refer to action plan for Malawi attached below. The most common challenge identified was lack of resources.


  • Workshop should have follow up workshops to continuously equip religious leaders, parent and the youth on scaling up CSE in their communities.
  • Young people should also have a forum of their own via same channels.
  • Participants should also be linked to trainers, master trainers and mentors previously trained by save the children in their countries.

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