Youth in the Caribbean will benefit from Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) activities launched by the UNFPA in a virtual webinar in February. CSE programmes enable young people to protect their health, wellbeing and dignity and are a strategic vehicle for promoting gender equality and human rights. The activities will be conducted under the Spotlight Regional Programme for the Caribbean which is part of the wider Spotlight Initiative (SI), a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.
The webinar provided an outline of the CSE activities to be implemented, and participants were allowed to provide inputs in accelerating the planned efforts. The effects of COVID-19 in the education sector that might also put at risk the continuity of the CSE delivery through Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) were also discussed.
Director and Representative for the UNFPA Sub-Regional Office of the Caribbean, Alison Drayton, who welcomed participants to the launch, highlighted that Caribbean youth’s growth and development continued to be undermined by what she called “new manifestations of age-old threats”. She identified several CSE challenges being faced by Caribbean youth. She expressed that vulnerability to all forms of violence, particularly bullying, sexual violence, abuse and exploitation and adolescent pregnancy rates remained very high.
Highlighting the role of the CSE initiatives in addressing these issues, the Director explained that strengthening regional capacities to advocate for and deliver quality CSE for in and out of school youth in the Caribbean was at the heart of the Regional Spotlight Programme. “The Comprehensive Sexuality Education interventions, through the Spotlight Initiative, are informed by robust evidence and aim to contribute to the collaborative efforts in preventing violence against women and girls in the Caribbean,” she said.
The CARICOM Secretariat is one of the organisations that has partnered with the UNFPA on this initiative and is playing a significant role in implementing the Spotlight Regional Programme for the Caribbean.
Helen Royer, Director, Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat, said the implementation of a regional HFLE curriculum, the creation of resources and toolkits, training of teachers to communicate the curriculum, and improved coordination among all the agencies at the regional and national levels are among the outcomes of CARICOM’s efforts at strengthening HFLE. Despite those investments, she was concerned that the key messages of HFLE were still not being converted into measurable behaviour change.
Against that backdrop, Ms Royer said CARICOM welcomed the Spotlight Initiative to enhance regional capacities to advocate and deliver quality Comprehensive Sexual Education.
“The interventions are aligned with the hopes for healthy and contributing Caribbean citizens, as outlined in the CARICOM Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy and are also in support of the recently launched Road map by PAHO for promoting the health and wellbeing of adolescents and youth in the Caribbean which received CARICOM’s support and endorsement,” Ms Royer stated.
UNFPA works with governments, civil society and other partners to implement CSE. UNFA also promotes policies for and investments in comprehensive sexuality education programmes that meet internationally agreed standards. This initiative is financed through funding from the European Union and UN agencies through the Spotlight Initiative.