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Effective sex education still a problem in many countries

© UNICEF Malaysia/2005/Nadchatram
Malaysian participant and youth reporter, Chan Kit Sze, including her statements to those of her peers.

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, 24 March 2005 – Forty children and young people from twenty countries in East Asia and the Pacific have called on their Governments to protect them from HIV/AIDS by providing for more effective sex education in schools. The plea for action was made by youth delegates at the closing of a “Children and Young People’s Forum” organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Forum is held in conjunction with the 7th East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children.

Compulsory sex education

“If people are old enough to have sex, then they are also old enough to learn about sex. You can’t stop people from having sex. But you can help save their lives if you give them the right education."

Tanes Rianglaem (18)

“Sex education should be made compulsory in schools if governments and adults are serious about protecting our wellbeing, health and our future. We need trained teachers to teach us. Teachers who can teach us the facts without being embarrassed or judgemental”, said Chan Kit Sze, 18 from Malaysia who is attending the youth forum and the Ministerial Consultation as one of fifteen youth reporters from the region.
 
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow with the incidence in East Asia rising by 50 per cent from 2002 to 2004.  In some countries in the region, the nature of the epidemic has changed from a concentrated, to a generalised epidemic although in the majority of countries, the epidemic is at a relatively early stage. Available data however indicates that knowledge of HIV and ways to prevent it are still low in this region which makes action to protect those most at risk, including adolescents, essential.

Positive peer pressure  

According to Tanes Rianglaem, 18, from Thailand, young girls and boys are already engaging in sex, “If people are old enough to have sex, then they are also old enough to learn about sex. You can’t stop people from having sex. But you can help save their lives if you give them the right education. Peer education is one good way. It’s about positive peer pressure to do the right thing.”  

© UNICEF Malaysia/2005/Nadchatram
Malaysian youth reporters, Jayaram, Shyh Hua and Kit Sze with EAPRO Regional Director Anupama Rao Singh.

In addition to providing sex education in schools, young people also suggested that parent workshops be organised to help parents understand the need for their children to learn about sex as well as how they can talk about it with their children in an open and informative manner.

“We have an opportunity today to avert a crisis – an opportunity that may not last long. Trends in the region point to a growing incidence of HIV/AIDS among younger age groups, especially girls. In Thailand for example, 70 per cent of young people infected with the virus are girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24” said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and Pacific.

US$ 1 billion will be raised

As part of UNICEF’s commitment to the issue, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy informed young people during the Forum that US$ 1 billion will be raised in the next 10 years to help countries around the world respond more effectively with HIV/AIDS care, support and prevention programs to meet the special needs of children.

Aside from HIV/AIDS, youth delegates also discussed issues on quality education, child participation, cultural change and media as well as employment opportunities for young people.

“We want our ministers in the East Asia and Pacific region to work for a region fit for children. Because a region fit for children is a region fit for everyone. We are the future and we are also the present. So please give us full opportunities to make a difference in our world with our participation, ideas and suggestions”, said the participants in a statement issued at the end of their 3-day program. 

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NOTE TO EDITORS:

  • The Ministerial Consultation on Children is the only high-level gathering of this type dedicated exclusively to children. It was first initiated after the World Summit for Children in 1990 and has been held every two years since 1991. Over the last decade, the Consultations have provided an important forum to discuss progress to achieving global commitments to the achievements of child rights. They have served as an important way to exchange ideas, strengthen regional cooperation for children and their outcomes have fed into the development of country specific National Plans of Actions for Children.
  • The forty youth delegates attending the “Children and Young People’s Forum” are aged between 11 and 21. They represent Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
  • Three Malaysian youth are attending both the Children and Young People’s Forum and covering the Ministerial Consultation as youth reporters. They are Chan Kit Sze, 18; Foo Shyh Hua, 17 and Jayaram Nagaraj, 20.

 

 
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