Civil Society and UN Partners develop an accountability framework to keep leaders on track to scale-up sexuality education and health services for young people

Hot on the heels of the affirmation ceremony of the Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment held on 7 December 2013, civil society convened a satellite session on 9 December 2013 to discuss an Accountability Framework to keep governments on track to scale-up Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual Reproductive Health Services (SRH) services for youth.

Asia 728x90

The Commitment, endorsed by Ministers of Health and Education from 21 Eastern and Southern Africa countries on 7 December 2013, puts forward bold actions to protect the region’s youth.  UNESCO’s Regional HIV and AIDS advisor, Dr Patricia Machawira explains: “The ESA Ministerial Commitment puts forward 10 key recommendations to address policy and programmatic gaps to improve the provision of comprehensive sexuality education and health services for young people. Based on the report issued by UNESCO titled, “Young People Today. Time to act now: Why adolescents and young people need sexuality education and health services in Eastern and Southern Africa,” it has been shown that 60% of young people still lack the basic knowledge to prevent HIV due to a lack of sexuality education.   Other findings show that, in some countries, 20% of young girls have started childbearing by the age of 17 while up to 35% of young women have experienced sexual or gender violence.”

Adding further Dr Machawira said, “The 10 key recommendations include the need for governments to review and where relevant amend laws and policies, for instance, on age of consent, child marriage; building the capacity of teachers, and health service providers; addressing school dropout rates as well as strengthening linkages and referrals between schools and health services as well as ensuring that health services are accessible and youth friendly, among other recommendations.”

AIDS Accountability International (AAI) Executive Director Ms Phillipa Tucker who chaired the satelite session said, “As commitments go, this one is better than most; it is designed in such a way as to improve the ability of civil society to hold their governments accountable. We as civil society will have to be strategic about how we work to improve and keep governments’ commitment to  the ESA Ministerial Commitment.  To this end, we have developed a monitoring and accountability framework, which includes time-bound, quantifiable goals and targets. This gives civil society, and the public too, a potentially powerful tool to improve the situation for youth to be able to access education about their sexual and reproductive health and learning what rights they have.”

The commitment, will allow the key Ministries to jointly develop and deliver the information, education and services needed to reverse the HIV and AIDS epidemic, promote healthy lifestyles through comprehensive sexuality education as well as related sexual health services thus protecting the region’s youth.

Focus countries include: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Summary of the 10 Key Recommendations identified in the ESA Commitment:

The Eastern and Ministerial Commitment puts forward 10 key recommendations as follows:

1.      Adopt a common regional agenda with inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms that work through existing coordination structures such as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Eastern African Community (EAC) to develop a regional CSE and SRH package along with a clear monitoring and accountability framework.

2.      Countries to review and where relevant, amend laws and policies on age of consent, child protection and teacher codes of conduct;

3.      Build the capacity of teachers, health service providers and young people to understand and advocate for increased HIV testing and counseling, treatment access and expansion of SRH services, especially in marginalised communities, including in non-formal and out of school settings.

4.      Maximise the protective effect of ‘Education for All’ by keeping children in school and addressing school dropout rates.

5.      Initiate and scale-up age appropriate CSE during primary school education to reach them before their first sexual debut

6.      Ensure increase youth and family and community participation in the design and delivery of CSE and SRH programmes and services

7.      Integrate and scale-up youth-friendly HIV and SRH services that is sensitive to the social and cultural context to improve age-appropriate access to and uptake of high quality SRH services and commodities, including condoms, contraception, HPV vaccine, HIV counselling and testing, safe abortion and Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission and other related services for young people in and out of school.

8.      Ensure that health services are accessible, youth-friendly, non-judgmental, and confidential and reach adolescents and young people when they need it most

9.      Strengthen gender equality and rights within education and health services including measures to address sexual and other forms of violence, abuse and exploitation in and around schools and community contexts.

10.   Mobilise national and external resources by exploring new, innovative technical and financial support from national and international sources to fulfill this commitment.