economic and health horizons, often for the rest of their lives. Making up the majority of the world’s population, their future is heavily influenced by structural factors, such as national wealth and income inequality, and by access to education and employment. It is also determined by social norms and critical power relationships operating at personal, family, and community levels. Collectively these structural and social forces may impede or accelerate the fulfillment of their rights
In the year 2000, world leaders agreed on the vision for the future — a world with less poverty, hunger and disease, greater survival prospects for mothers and their infants, better educated children, equal opportunities for women and a healthier environment; a world in which developed and developing countries work in partnership for the betterment of all.
The sustainable development goal (SDG) 4 seeks to ‘’ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all’’. Education is both a goal in itself and a means for attaining all the other SDGs. It is not only an integral part of sustainable development but also a key enabler for it. Education is a ‘development multiplier’ in that it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 SDGs, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or building peaceful societies.
Education should, therefore, not be denied young people but rather, it should be made available, equitable and accessible for all, including education on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Unfortunately, education on SRHR has and still in most countries not given much attention due to the widespread misconception that providing education on SRHR will encourage adolescents/youth to engage in early or risky sexual behavior. There is this deep-seated discomfort about adolescent sexuality which contributes to legal and social barriers to the provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).
We need to understand that, we cannot exclude CSE from our educational curriculum since CSE equips children and adolescents with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being, and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others, and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives. Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet a majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections, forced marriage, and unintended pregnancies.
Let’s be reminded that our children, boys, and girls need to be in school. Governments need to place education as a priority in both policy and practice and make a firm commitment to provide free education to all, including the vulnerable/marginalized groups.
We need to include education on sexual reproductive health and rights in our Educational curriculum and integrate CSE into all forms of training both in and out of school and must be tailored to the specific context and needs of young people. Out-of-school programmes including community-based training and education, often aimed at adolescents/young people most in need of information – such as married adolescent girls, homeless youth, migrants and refugees, youth in remote rural areas, and those living in conflict zones should be provided in our communities.
We need to prioritize, engage and ensure youth participation to harness our demographic dividend. Realizing a demographic dividend requires multiple investments. The most essential are building the capabilities of people and ensuring their rights and freedoms to achieve their potential. Young people, therefore, need the chance to gain the education and experience to succeed in a competitive global workplace, which demands more skills, education and technical expertise than ever before. The fulfillment of human rights – including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – is therefore essential for any society to achieve a demographic dividend. This is why SRHR education is needed for adolescents/youths to know and demand for those rights.
Let’s always remember that making SRHR education more relevant, equitable and inclusive is crucial to achieving sustainable development.
Author: Augustine Kumah, Ph.D. Student
Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation (CERHI)
Department of Community Health, University of Benin
Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.