A Case For Sexual Health Education
In organisations’ missions to reduce social inequality by reducing educational inequality in developing contexts, can we magnify our collective impact by moving beyond classroom curriculum education and also including health education? Read on to see what we think about this.
In our last blog post, we discussed why and how educational NGOs can include courses on financial literacy and help vulnerable female students in Bihar not only in their economic empowerment, but also in their basic physical security and health. In this blog, we take another step forward and discuss why sexual health education is important, especially in education programs focusing on adolescents in Bihar.
The Why: Why link school education and sexual health education for adolescents?
Firstly, let us look at the numbers about adolescents in a context we are familiar with, i.e., Bihar in India and then argue our case for their sexual health education.
- The state of Bihar has a very high Adolescent Fertility Rate (77 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years) . This important statistic is repeated from our last blog (and rightly emphasised twice) as it shows that even before girls graduate from schools, there is a culture of early marriage and motherhood. This often happens without proper family planning.
- Continuing from the previous point, when it comes to family planning, Bihar’s unmet need for family planning (FP) is 21%- the third highest in the country. This means that young couples in Bihar do not have access to family planning knowledge and services.
The above facts mean that young women in Bihar are at the risk of poor health outcomes like being trapped in the cycle of child births, poor nutrition and maternal mortality, if they do not have access to information on sexual health services, specifically family planning services.
The How: Sexual Health Education in Education
Culturally, India is a country that has not widely adopted the good practice of imparting sex education in schools. However, looking at our statistics, we know that there is an urgent need to include at least sexual health education (specially family planning) for adolescents for various reasons.
Providing information on sexual health and family planning services to young girls who will potentially become mothers means that we will be placing a greater amount of power in their hands to choose when they want to give births, or how often they choose. Needless to say, this will also have a good impact on their health, as there is a direct link between pregnancies and malnutrition and maternal deaths. This goes beyond affecting just the mothers but also infants, where if one is born too quickly after another (without adequate spacing), both suffer from bad feeding practices and the ill effects of childhood malnutrition. Sexual health and family planning education can also involve men and make them agencies of good health practises in their family and communities .
In conclusion, we see that there is a very direct link between the need for sexual health education and reduction of social inequality. Here, education- focused NGOs can play a major role in improving life outcomes for their adolescents and young adults beneficiaries, without deviating from their main goal and mission to provide access to ‘education’- by broadening the meaning and terms of the ‘education’ that they provide!