Insight: How to help young persons make informed choices about life and love

23 January 2019

Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet research shows that the majority of adolescents lack the knowledge and skills required to act on those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable. 

Comprehensive sexuality education builds confidence and enables young people to protect their health and well-being. Some parents worry that sexuality education encourages sex, but it actually does the opposite. It helps people make informed choices, which leads to healthier relationships and lives. It also advances gender equality. 

So how can we create an environment that enables young people to make better choices? The below tips are a good start. 

  • Recognise that sexuality is not just biology. 

Relationships, emotions, respect and our understanding of gender should be the foundation of sexuality education. This is what comprehensive sexuality education includes.

  • Start the discussion at the age of five.

Too soon? Not when you consider that gender roles fix in our minds by the age of 10. If you start age-appropriate sexuality education early, it can also prevent child abuse because it helps children know what is right and wrong.  

  • Teach boys and girls together

Both boys and girls need to learn about each other. We will never attain gender equality unless men also support women’s empowerment. 

  • Include sexual and gender diversity

Make sure language is inclusive of sexual and gender diversity (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex). Do not make assumptions about “boy meets girl,” which can lead to stigma and discrimination. 

  • Embed sexuality education within school systems 

All schools have a responsibility to educate every child on sexuality education and equip them with the right tools for their future life and love. The whole school also needs to have positive gender equality and anti-bullying standards so it is a safe space to learn. 

  • Get the right methodology 

Lectures and presentations won’t work. Teaching should include role-play around relationships, especially on how to “say no” if that is your choice.

  • If you are not ready, take it slow

If a parent is not ready to have conversations about sex and sexuality, then at first, focus on the social and emotional skills needed for relationships that every child needs to develop. 

Useful resources
International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education