Sexual Literacy - Calling for brave dialogues about sex

Josephine speaking to a fellow member of the Journalist Network during an Advocacy Meeting in Nairobi

World Literacy Day is marked on the 8th of September. It is a time of reflection on the importance of literacy as a key component in dignity and human rights. It is a day where we are all urged to think of ways working towards more literate and sustainable communities. 

On this day, IPPF Africa Region focuses on the issue of sexual literacy. It is a topic that is seldom in our conversations especially in Africa yet is a critical part of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It is important to talk about sex and to have the necessary factual information on matters of sex. 

In light of this, we talked to members of the IPPF Journalist Network and this is what they had to say about sexual literacy:

 

Archibald speaking

Archibald Adams, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator, Planned Parenthood Federation of Ghana (PPAG)

“Sexuality literacy means accessing the right knowledge about rights and responsibilities on sexuality. It is important as one becomes aware of their rights and responsibilities. Sexual literacy empowers the people to seek the right information as well as services that comes along with it. For all to access sexual literacy, continuous public education, provision of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for both in-school and out-of-school adolescents is needed.”

He also pointed out that there is a need to focus on youth and refugees regarding CSE. 

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Sithembile Hlatshwayo, Journalist, Times of Swaziland  

“Sexual literacy is knowledge of sexual health and well-being. It promotes development in that it prevents unintended pregnancy. The absence of sexual literacy can be the source of many health and social hazards, including exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). I think the implementation of the CSE is the step in the right direction. Due to our socialisation, we delay engaging our children in conversations about sexuality matters and they depend on information received from peers. Health literacy is a form of empowerment."

Sithembile pointed out that sexual literacy helps in protecting young girls from STIs and that there are also several potential ways through which sexual and reproductive health (SRH) literacy can contribute gender equality (SDG 5). This is by helping girls stay in school, reducing gender gaps in education (part of the sutainable development goal number 4 - SDG4) and improving future economic opportunities.

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Moses Chimfwembe, Journalist and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Advocate, Zambia

“Sexual literacy is a form of empowerment with regards to information or awareness of sexual health and wellbeing. Zambia is currently highest in Southern Africa in terms of early marriages and 30% of maternal deaths are as a result of unsafe abortions. Therefore, sexual literacy is of great importance to my country as it will save the lives of the vulnerable groups who are mostly young women and girls. On the economic front, it's going to help my government in the planning process and management of resources. For instance, funds that are spent on post-abortion care could be channeled to other needy sectors. In addition to that, financial literacy would greatly help my country tackle intergenerational poverty that occurs within families and society," he said. 

Moses expressed that in his country, Zambia that CSE in schools is being implemented and is a progressive initiative but there is a need to address gaps especially when it comes to referrals. He mentioned that adolescents are able to access SRH education in schools, but they are not being referred to the service providers for services. He added that there is a need for measures to reach out to out-of-school youth.

His stand on parental involvement was clear. He said it is critical and parent should that brave dialogues with clear messages aimed at rooting out myths, misconceptions or taboos that are deeply rooted in our cultures and traditions. This would ensure that parents take a leading role in empowering adolescents with sexual literacy. His thoughts were that the most vulnerable groups are adolescents and young women. He finalised by sharing, "It is said when you educate a girl child, you educate the entire nation. The same can apply to the African continent. Sexual literacy has far-reaching benefits to Africa besides health ones and these are: Reduced poverty; Enhancing gender equality and general welfare of women; Prevents maternal mortality resulting from unsafe abortions of unplanned pregnancies.”

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Josephine Speaking

Josephine Mugishagwe, Advocacy, Communication and Public Relations Officer, UMATI, Tanzania

 “Sexual literacy to me is the information or knowledge required for having/protecting good and sexual health and wellbeing. With more than 60% of the Tanzanian population being young people who do not receive CSE as part of the school curriculum, sexual literacy is important to reduce some of the challenges brought about by this reality. This is to say, gender-based violence (GBV), teenage pregnancy, gender inequality, and child marriage, she said. 

Her brilliant thought on the integration of CSE into the National Curriculum in Tanzania would be a great move towards ensuring sexual literacy for all - especially for the young Tanzanians aged between 10-24. She mentioned that sexual literacy includes the development of personal and social skills meaning that people in Africa need to embraces sexual literacy. She alluded to the fact that sexual literacy would curb unintended pregnancies. These unintended pregnacies raise the maternal mortality rates. In closing, she commented on how sexual literacy is a form of empowerment in situations where gender inequality and power relations force certain groups to have limited access to information.

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IPPF Africa Region calls upon you to continue with this conversation and have these necessary brave dialogues about sex. Our Member Associations are always on standby to offer facts about sexual health across the continent. You can reach them through their contacts listed here