Human Rights

Human Capital Investments: Comprehensive sexuality education to empower adolescents for realizing their full potential

Imagine if the next generation of school graduates receive essential life skills as part of their education?  Would not the human capital of Lao have higher capacity and on sequent opportunities?

This is exactly what UNFPA is supporting the MOES to achieve! COVID-19 has shown how important human capacity and resilience is and investing in youth and adolescents is imperative to build back better.

Adolescence is a period of rapid change; it brings a strong urge to experiment and takes risks, of giving in to peer pressure which can often be negative, of taking uninformed decisions, especially those relating to one’s body and sexuality. Adolescence is a turning point in one’s life, a period of increased potential but also greater vulnerability.

Adolescent girls and boys face many similar challenges, but adolescent girls face a higher pressure to conform, on self-image and worth, on managing emotions, developing confidence and healthy relationships, on their negotiation skills and dealing with peer pressure.

To protect adolescents, UNFPA supports life skills interventions which allow adolescents to strengthen their abilities to seek information, services and make informed choices.

UNFPA is supporting the Ministry of Education and Sports in the Lao PDR to integrate Phed Suk Sa i.e. comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) into the primary curriculum in collaboration with BEQUAL Programme supported by the Australian government and the European Union; developing teachers guide books for secondary schools; a manual for vocational training institutes and training teachers in schools and vocational training institutes.

The key concepts are taught to students in age appropriate, increasingly complex and culturally sensitive manner. UNFPA focuses on delivering CSE in interactive ways, including: group discussions, role plays and storytelling.

Phed Suk Sa (CSE) has been integrated into grade 1 – 3 of primary schools, while grades 4 and 5 will be covered in the next two years covering over 400,000 students.

For secondary schools, 140 teachers in 45 schools have been trained to deliver CSE to 25,000 students in Bokeo province. CSE delivery is being expanded to 3 new provinces through strategic partnership with INGOs (PLAN International and Child Fund) covering another 27,000 students.

In addition, CSE in technical and vocational training institutes covers over 3,000 students.

So what is the CSE content?

Knowing their bodies and self-awareness:  students learn about the human body and how to protect it. They learn their sexual and reproductive wellbeing and rights, including, puberty, body image and recognition of self, desires and dislikes. Most importantly, they learn skills for managing their health and well-being.

Sexual and reproductive health: students learn about reproduction, how male and female bodies differ and react differently.  They also learn about pregnancy and pregnancy prevention and understanding, recognizing and reducing the risk of STIs including HIV.

Relationships, gender and empathy: They learn about positive and negative relationships, power in relationships. They learn about respect within family, friends and intimate partners. They are sensitized on the social construct of gender and gender norms, gender equality and gender-based violence. Mutual respect between boys and girls, boys are taught to be supportive of women and girls and girls are empowered.

The confidence acquired or not during adolescence can determine lifelong consequences for boys and especially girls.

Critical thinking: to analyze information and experiences in an objective manner. To recognize and assess the factors that influence attitudes and behavior, such as values, peer pressure, community social norms and the information in the media. This competency strengthens their ability to form opinions and take positions on matters.

Decision making Adolescents learn about their rights and assess the options available to them and how to make effective decisions. The contents include child rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights such as choosing when and with whom to marry, choosing whether, when and how many children to have and deciding the choice of contraception.

Interpersonal communication skills help adolescents relate in positive ways with people they interact with in their everyday lives such as parents, peers, men and women in the society and leaders in the community. Learning how to express different points of view, to persuade, to discuss difficult topics. Effective communication tactics can help foster debate, acceptance of differing points of view, ability to address and engage against harmful practices to break negative norms and practices.

The government of the Lao PDR committed at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 to fully integrate CSE in school curriculums nationwide by 2030 and the MOES and UNFPA are working together to ensure the Lao PDR commitments to the ICPD and SDGs are met.


Source: Lao News Agency

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