Information, Education and Communication
Advocacy and Policy Development
Information, Education and
As the largest-ever generation of
young people enters adulthood, education and information can affect when
they marry, how many children they will have, and the well-being of their
future families and the nations in which they live. For young women, the
right to exercise greater control over their sexual and reproductive
lives, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, is the key to a
All young people are not the same. Many are sexually active
and many are not; some are already married and some are not. Some live at
home and others are on their own, even at an early age. Many go to school
and many do not; some are in crisis or difficult circumstances. While
their situations vary, all young people need and want information about
their sexuality, their reproductive health, and how they can plan their
In many parts of the world, school curricula are highly
theoretical and not closely related to everyday life. Channels of
communication between teachers and students are hierarchical, and
discussion is limited. The concept of guidance and counselling from
teachers to students is also lacking. School programmes may fail to
address certain sensitive issues because parents, educators, religious
leaders or policy makers may be reluctant to address them. Consequently,
many youth-oriented programmes do not offer the information and services
that are needed, and education on sexuality, women's health, family
planning and nutrition is limited. Various UNFPA-supported programmes are
working to overcome these constraints.
Studies show that family life
education should begin early, in some countries even before adolescence,
to help young people through the years when they are learning about their
sexuality and beginning to be interested in sexual matters. Messages for
sexually active youth should be different from messages for youth who have
not initiated sexual activity and should be as specific as
possible. One study in Albania, for example, showed that youth wanted
information on such practical matters as how to avoid condom breakage and
how to obtain emergency contraception.
In Burundi, UNFPA, in cooperation
with WHO, UNICEF and an international NGO, began a reproductive health
campaign in 1999 directed at adolescents in two pilot provinces with plans
to expand to 10 more provinces in 2000. The programme was designed using
the results of a knowledge, attitudes and practice (KAP) survey that was
conducted among young people in 1998 and a new national adolescent
reproductive health strategy adopted by the Government in 1999. The pilot
programme includes training that promotes a climate of openness and
straightforwardness in dealing with young people's questions about
sexuality and reproductive health.
In Iran, UNFPA supported the Ministry
of Education in conducting research on teaching reproductive health and
sexuality to students aged 17-24 in evening classes. As a result of the
research, the focus of the classes shifted from general population issues
to a more direct approach in which students were provided with information
on sensitive reproductive matters. A booklet and accompanying poster on
successful marriage were developed and printed. With UNFPA assistance,
another booklet was published jointly by the Ministry of Education and the
Ministry of Health. This booklet, designed for adolescent girls, included
information on puberty.
In its programme of assistance to the Palestinian
people in 1999, the Fund worked with the Palestinian Authority to
integrate reproductive health and gender issues into school curricula,
adult education, teacher training and youth education programmes. Eighty
teachers and supervisors were trained on the most effective techniques for
communicating messages on reproductive health and gender to students and,
as a result, they have become strong community advocates. The Fund also
helped produce four booklets and a teacher's guide on reproductive health
for adult education. Seventy youth leaders were trained to act as peer
counsellors, and a telephone hot line was established to provide
counselling services to young people. UNFPA also helped organize summer
camps for underprivileged youth living on the West Bank. The youth
programme reached many young men and women and created participatory
forums for peer-to-peer discussion on issues that were formerly taboo.
Similar programmes have been implemented else-where in the Arab States
region, including Egypt, Syria and Yemen. Regional programmes have been
devised to train leaders of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to serve as
peer counsellors. The regional workshops have had a "cascade"
effect in that the trained participants then conduct similar workshops at
the national level, producing gender- sensitive information and education
materials on adolescent reproductive health.
HIV/AIDS information playing
prepared by UNFPA’s Ghana office.
Young People's Health and Education Issues
One person in six
is between the ages of 15 and 24. They need information and services to
protect their reproductive health and their futures.
* Two million young
girls face female genital mutilation each year.
* Only 76 per cent of
girls, compared to 96 per cent of boys, receive some level of primary
schooling. Of the 130 million children who are not in school, two thirds
* One in every 10 births worldwide is to a teenage mother. In
least-developed countries, one in six births is to a young woman aged 15
* In most African countries, three quarters of women become
sexually active during their teenage years. In Latin America and the
Caribbean, the age pattern is somewhat older. In more-developed countries,
more than 50 per cent of young women are sexually active before age 18.
At least one in 10 abortions worldwide occurs among women aged 15 to 19.
More than 4.4 million adolescent women undergo abortions every year; 40
per cent of these abortions are performed under unsafe conditions.
day 500,000 young people are infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
* Half of all HIV infections – 8,000 a day – occur in people under the
age of 25. Girls are being infected by older men: a new study supported by
UNAIDS and WHO found HIV infection rates of 15 to 23 per cent among girls
15 to 19 years old, 26 to 40 per cent among men aged 25 or more, and just
3 to 4 per cent among 15- to 19-year-old boys.
* Of all age groups, the
unmet need for contraception is greatest among sexually active young
Actions to Meet Young People's Needs
Specific actions can
help young people avoid unwanted and too-early pregnancy, reduce recourse
to abortion, and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such
as HIV/AIDS. Moreover, respecting their rights to health and education
will prepare them for lives as responsible and productive adults.
Increasingly, young men are the target of efforts to promote responsible
sexual behaviour and reproductive health. Programmes for young people
* Improve accessibility of health services and information;
* Offer sensitive and respectful counselling in a youth-friendly
* Involve parents, teachers and community leaders;
sex education in schools and other settings (many studies have shown that
sex education does not lead to promiscuity).
Finding ways to reach
young people is a priority. In the vast majority of its country programmes,
UNFPA supports information and education programmes both in and out of
school. In 1999, UNFPA worked with the Government of Viet Nam to identify
different "entry points" where youth can be engaged.
Reproductive health issues were integrated into secondary school
curricula; counselling centres, youth clubs and "Café Condom"
shops were established; a live phone-in programme on adolescent
reproductive health was broadcast; communication campaigns were conducted
through the mass media; and new information and education materials were
developed. As a result, both in- and out-of-school adolescents are being
provided with reproductive health information that is more tailored to
their specific needs.
In Albania, UNFPA supported a variety of information
campaigns for young people that included advertising, radio shows and
billboards to promote responsible behaviour. The country office supported
a series of peer education seminars, delivered in an "open, humorous
and friendly style", which were extremely well received, generating a
demand for future seminars. UNFPA also supported a social marketing scheme
for condoms through pharmacies as well as other, non-traditional, outlets.
UNFPA strives to involve adolescents themselves in designing programmes
that concern them. For example, in Ecuador, youth have developed their own
educational materials, including booklets on adolescent sexuality, sexual
relations, adolescent pregnancy and contraceptives. The problem of
domestic violence has been taken up by young people as a priority. A youth
drama group, formed through a UNFPA-supported project in Quito, has used
this theme for several of its plays. The participation of young men, and
their willingness to consider the gender dimension and how it affects
women in their culture, has been encouraging.
In Morocco, the Ministry of
Youth and Sports has developed an innovative approach that involves youth
clubs. The young people created their own materials, including songs,
dramas, puppet shows and other imaginative ways to deliver messages on
family planning, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS, family
life and sexual education. Young people, like these teenagers from Juárez,
Mexico, need to learn about responsible sexual behaviour. Photo: Viviain
Moos.In Indonesia, the participation of youth in the development of
information and education materials has been extremely important and
successful, as has the use of outreach peer educators. However, the
outreach workers have so far been limited to urban areas. In provincial
areas, the use of family counselling groups in conjunction with
reproductive health programmes in schools has been found to be more
effective. In the country's new adolescent reproductive health project,
young people will play a key role in planning and implementation.
Increasingly, UNFPA support is being
given to projects that use new information technologies to reach young
people. In Romania, for example, the Fund provided assistance to a
national foundation to develop an interactive game on CD-ROM dealing with
the prevention of STDs and HIV/AIDS, which is being distributed free of
charge to schools. Our web site, which we are constantly upgrading, also
provides information to young people and allows them to give feedback.
Before Marriage Not Appropriate For Youth, Messages Tell Indonesian
Increasing teenage pregnancy rates have prompted
non-governmental organizations, supported by UNFPA, to train young people
to provide reproductive health information and services to their peers.
UNFPA helps to promote responsible behaviour by supporting the production
of information and education materials to advise adolescents. The
materials also try to reach parents, policy makers and community leaders.
The Fund's partners are the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA)
and the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN). They work
under the theme, "Having sex before marriage is not appropriate among
youth." Specific messages stress, for example, "Responsible
relationships between boys and girls," "The world of youth is
free, but there are limitations," and "Youth must get correct
and clear information about sexuality."