UNESCO and Partners Expand O3 Program Across Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa is getting set to mark yet another milestone, with the expansion of the Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) program to more countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.O3 supports the delivery of good quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) that empowers adolescents and young people while developing the skills, knowledge, attitudes and competencies required for preventing HIV, reducing early and unintended pregnancies, and eliminating gender-based violence.
“I was 18 years old when I had my first introduction to Comprehensive Sexuality Education,” said 22-year-old Akosua Agyepong, youth leader. “Biology was teaching me the physiology of sexuality. Religion was teaching me abstinence. My mother was telling me ‘Don’t do anything with boys’— But what is ‘anything’? When I began acquiring CSE, I understood that my self worth was not about looks. CSE taught me that I am an individual. That my sexuality is my empowerment. That my body is my own. ”
January 30, 2019 marked, indeed, a big step for the O3 program with a launch ceremony held in Accra, Ghana. Ministers of Education and of Health and government officials from 14 Sub-Saharan African countries* took part in the ceremony, as UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, Ghana’s Minister for Education Matthew Opoku Prempeh and First Secretary and Deputy Head at the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka Susanna Janson Landin pulled the curtains off to reveal the one-meter-tall logo of the program. The program currently covers 31 countries. Six countries, namely Eswatini, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are referred to as Programme Acceleration Countries (PAC). The event was an opportunity for UNESCO and UN partners to move more countries to PAC status. Countries part of the successful ESA Commitment reiterated their engagement. Along those lines, new countries from Western and Central Africa have expressed their commitment to CSE delivery.The O3 launch event was part of a high-level dialogue between the Ministers and government officials, community leaders, parents, young people and senior UNESCO and UN officials. The participants discussed the challenges to implementing CSE in their respective countries and exchanged experience and best practices. They also visited Accra Girls Senior High School and attended the pioneering classes on CSE that the Government of Ghana supports.
“I was very impressed to see how these young women are articulate about topics related to sexuality education and reproductive organs,” said Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO. “Empowering girls is key to sustainable development. When the education and health sectors work together and join efforts with other sectors, we create an enormous potential to promote the good health and well-being of all adolescents and young people.”
O3 is expected to reach over 20 million adolescents and young people in 64,000 primary and secondary schools from across 31 countries in the region. It is also expected to reach 47,000 preservice teachers, 367,000 in-service teachers, 30 million other people (parents, guardians, religious leaders, and young people out of school) through community engagement activities and 10 million more young people through digital platforms.
“There is clear evidence that CSE reduces Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV and unintended pregnancies,” declared Susanna Janson Landin, First Secretary and Deputy Head at the Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka. “This is not a girls’ issue. It has to come from a common understanding of the right of youth to accurate information on health and well-being so that they can make the right decisions about their lives.”With support from the Governments of Sweden and Ireland, the O3 program started in 2018 and will run until 2022.
* The 14 countries participating in the event were Côte d'Ivoire, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, RDC, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe