CSE Problems of Today and Solutions for Tomorrow

CSE Problems of Today and Solutions for Tomorrow

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is about life, love, and making the world safer.

By Anna Bakken

To learn more on implementing CSE programs and reducing barriers, Sex og Politikk, SAIH and Plan International Norway held a CSE seminar in Oslo. The seminar gave international perspectives on CSE programs, challenges, and successes, including speakers from South Africa, Rwanda, and Indonesia.

During the seminar speakers recognized problems facing CSE like misconceptions and cultural barriers. Yet, the speakers were expressing passionate hope. These arbiters of a safer world didn’t shy away from the negatives but met them head on with persistent problem solving. Solutions were far reaching, including engaging on local levels and connecting with parents, teachers, school leaders and religious leaders. And importantly, the youths themselves. Sex og Politikk and the members of the seminar were eager for the next meeting with more discourse on CSE and the proposed solutions.

When I look around the room, — I am always in more hope than despair.

Ritika Dhall, Norad

Kari Helene Partapouli, the General Secretary of Plan Norway, kicked off the seminar by explaining that «implementing [CSE] is conflicting and challenging,» but «comprehensive knowledge about such a complex field makes our lives safer.» Helene also highlighted a crucial problem in successful CSE by discussing the «significant gap between policy, frameworks, and the implementation on the ground.»

Sexual rights have been tested globally in recent years. Norad representative Ritika Dhall, head of the Department for the Human Development section for Gender Equality, found the «lack of» progress and reversal in this sphere to be worrisome and stressed the importance of continuous work to promote sexual and reproductive rights, including CSE programs. Ritika was delighted to share news of six new SRHR contracts with international organizations that included CSE-programs. 

Hulisani Khorombi, the South African speaker, from The Centre for Sexualities, Aids and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria, communicated the need for sufficient funding and country specific content for CSE. From their recent audit of CSE in South African universities CSA&G found one of the major problems facing these CSE programs was teacher hesitancy. Teachers are shying away from teaching sexual education due to cultural taboo.

The representative from Plan International Rwanda spoke about the CSE programs in Rwanda. Alice highlighted many positives in International Plan Rwanda including their establishment of “150 school based and community based safe spaces for youth. 2,600 peer educators and mentors, and also training more than 100 sub-supervisors and teachers, and a total of more than 800,000 adolescents reached by [their] CSE program.” Busmanzi also “address[ed] the strong resistance to CSE in families and communities” explaining Plan International Rwanda “will do more engagement with parents and caregivers of young people by providing more awareness around the importance of CSE, and increasing [caregiver] knowledge around SRHR topics and available materials that help them to have open conversation with their children.”

Eko Maryadi, Sex og Politikk’s very own guest from Indonesia Planned Parenthood Association, gave the audience an understanding of the SRHR struggles of Indonesia. Eko emphasized, as many of the speakers also covered, the importance of collaboration and continued learning between peers, but especially by including the youth. Eko recognized that a large percent of his youth volunteers were sexual and gender minorities. Giving them proper tools to succeed is beneficial for the organization’s endeavors, the youth, and Indonesia.

Combating anti-human rights groups, including through youth inclusion was highlighted by Haley McEwan. Haley is Professor at University of Gothenburg and co-writer of the report on anti-gender movements. Haley talked about her report and immediately jumped into the solutions. Being ahead of opposition to CSE is key instead of responding to falsehoods and harmful allegations about CSE. Haley’s three major solutions were local community engagement in CSE processes, youth engagement and leadership, and lastly preemptive and extensive knowledge on the opposition.

Executive Director Tor-Hugne Olsen, Sex og Politikk, closed the seminar with a positive out-look on the CSE struggle. Tor-Hugne noted that this is not just the natural opposition of democracy but of anti-rights, and in this struggle CSE protectors and advocates are setting the course forward regardless of these push-backs. The small victories may not be as loud but, even in the face of anti-human rights organizations, they are making this overall positive direction possible.