Children With Disabilities Struggle To Grasp Comprehensive Sexuality Education- UNESCO Study

Delivering Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to children with disabilities remains a challenge due to a myriad of barriers ranging from stigma attached to sexuality of young people with disabilities, a UNESCO report has gathered.

By Michael Gwarisa

The 2020 report was conducted in five countries in East and Southern African Region namely Zimbabwe, Zambai, Malawi, Tanzania, Eswathini and Swaziland. The study revealed that children with visual impairments were the most affected largely due to challenges related to translating material into brail.

Presenting on the 2020 Study Findings on the Status Of CSE Learners with Disabilities during a virtual meeting, Dr  Patricia Machawira, the UNESCO Regional Advisor said there was a complex range of issues which impact delivery of CSE for children and young persons with disabilities.

We need to understand that children with disabilities are not a homogeneous group. There is general lack of materials in braille, large print, Easy Read format and also the lack of tactile materials for  demonstrations using real objects, such as condoms as well as lack of materials in the vernacular,” said Dr Machawira.

Other challenges she highlighted included the absence of film materials, absence of sign language and/or captions, including ICT equipment, a lack of awareness of the importance of adapted resources and a lack of role models = materials did not show images of persons with disabilities.

“In order to address these gaps, there is need for political engagement to support implementation of CSE and promote disability inclusive policies and inclusive education. We need to to also promote multistakeholder approaches and strengthen the current coordination platforms and to identify and utilize available synergies and  coherence with other national and regional programmes.”

Professor Tsistsi Chataika, a University of Zimbabwe academic said there was need for research around CSO so as to find solutions to challenges peculiar to the ESA regiona in terms of implementing CSE.

“Research allows us to come up with the best practices in terms of advancing CSE to our learners. Its also allows us not to duplicate efforts. Research will also allow us to learn from other experiences from the African region and the world. We need to see how best we can implement CSE so that we can come up with a disability inclusive lens to enusire no one is left behind,” said Professor Chataika.

UNESCO is supporting the delivery of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for Learners with Disabilities.
CSE is fundamental to empowering all children and young people, including those with disabilities. It provides every child and young person with the knowledge, attitudes and skills they need to safely navigate significant milestones in their life.

Children and young people with disabilities have the same right to participate in CSE. However, they face various barriers in accessing CSE in current school settings and often do not receive CSE education or are excluded from such programmes. Even if sexuality education is provided, the programmes may not adequately meet their needs. This is due to various barriers including stigma attached to sexuality of young people with disabilities. Additionally, children and young people with disabilities have heightened risks for sexual, physical, and emotional violence than those without disabilities.

They are more vulnerable to developing poor self-esteem and sexual self-image and this can hinder their
development of communication skills and other socio-emotional skills.

“I think we are left behind because even the little available materials are not user-friendly to us. I cannot see when a teacher teaches concepts even using objects. How am I going to understand with no customized information and materials catering for us? We are just there as observers, but it is very challenging grasping even the little provided.” – Primary school learner with disabilities from Tanzania This webinar aims to disseminate the latest evidence and resources on CSE delivery for Children and young people with disabilities, as well as providing a platform for experience sharing on delivery of CSE.

The webinar is part of a series of webinars organized by the CSE Community of Practise (CoP) that was created to enable teachers and CSE practitioners to promote peer exchange, best practice and build common capability in CSE across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Working closely with relevant regional structures, national ministries, education institutions, and key partners, UNESCO supports access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people with disabilities.

By institutionalizing health and well-being programs while engaging leadership for long-term commitment and sustainability, UNESCO supports all learners and students to reach their full potential.

 

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