10 Days of Activism Blog by Rada E, YouAct member, Bulgaria

doaNowadays, when the number of adolescents and youth in the world is nearly two billion and growing , policy-makers and communities have to ensure more than ever that we as young people grow happy in a safe environment which gives us opportunities for successful personal realization. While growing, young people learn about the world, our environment and most importantly, we become conscious of changes in our identities and bodies. But in order this discovery to be a pleasant and memorable transition to adulthood, young people need to have access to information and services that built up critical thinking and experience. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in this respect is an essential tool for empowering young people. It enables us to decide on our own what choices we make about our bodies and integrity, and to meaningfully contribute in social life by engaging in activities which promote universally shared values embedded in the fundamental human rights.

The essence of CSE is built on crosscutting concepts including gender, sex and sexuality, identity, equality, diversity, etc. Such a holistic approach is of the highest importance for young people across the globe to learn how to be safe in their intimate relationships and at the same time to fully exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

CSE manages to envisage the transitivity of concepts in which our bodies are focus of many interpretations. We need to know about our bodies as they are medium of culture (Bordo, 1989:13) the same way as sexuality is socially constructed (Barry, 1995:54) . In other words, body and sexuality are not only biological phenomena but rather they are layered with meanings that change all the time. Moreover, they could be subject to different cultural, religious, economic and political interests that aim at regulation or promotion. We, as young people, need to be aware not only of the physical nature of our bodies but also of the different uses they are object to. When such information is scarce, young people face increasing pressures regarding sex and sexuality including conflicting messages and norms. On the one hand sex is seen as negative and associated with guilt, fear and disease, but through the media and friends it is portrayed as positive and desirable. Such pressures may be perpetuated by a lack of accurate information, skills, and awareness of their rights and by gender expectations.

CSE could be relevant in different cultural and social contexts helping us to overcome traditional stereotypes that often place us in a subordinate role. For example, CSE is crucial to girls and young women, especially in poor regions, as they are more vulnerable due to historically formed patriarchal patterns. Such a hierarchical structure presupposes the realization of girls and young women in the domestic spheres as mothers and housewives. Furthermore, it affects all adolescents and youth by preventing them from expressing their identity, sexuality or even their own opinion. That is why CSE goes beyong intimate relationships to reveal a wider social perspective. Growing evidence shows that providing CSE can help young women develop healthy behaviours and can generate positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

CSE accurately reflects the need of the young people as it teaches them their rights through realizing them; it provides critical information, opportunities for networking, and prevention activities. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and young people have the right to enjoy the highest attainable health, access to health facilities (Article 24), and access to information which will allow them to make decisions about their health (Article 17), including family planning (Article 24). Young people also have the right to be heard, express opinions and be involved in decision making (Article 12). They have the right to education which will help them learn, develop and reach their full potential and prepare them to be understanding and tolerant towards others (Article 29). Additionally, young people have the right not to be discriminated against (Article 2) .

So, we as young persons believe that joint actions should be taken for the promotion of CSE worldwide as a tool for youth empowerment and a manifestation of universal human rights.

Our calls to action are:

– Leaders and decision-makers must keep their commitments and support policy on SHRH, including CSE programs;
– Meaningful participation of young people in decision-making process must be ensured;
– Funding opportunities must be increased on national and international levels for youth-led and youth-serving organizations, and for research that disaggregates data regarding young people by age, gender and region
– Increased involvement of young people being in the development of resources and teaching tools for CSE aimed at youth;
– Building up and strengthening of peer to peer networks as well as youth-adult partnerships
– Providing young people with universal access to information and youth-friendly services;
– Collaboration with media and other mainstream partners