In the absence of formal policies, grassroots projects and individuals around the world are stepping in to plug the gaps. Here are six programmes working to teach young people in developing communities about their sexuality and their rights. Sexuality education is a controversial topic in India. He and other politicians fear the subject leads to promiscuity, experimentation and irresponsible sexual behaviour.
The programme runs across India and consists of 14 classes for to year-olds, which include role play, art and games. Then we ask whether girls actually walk like that. We talk about where stereotypes come from and how to prevent them from dictating how we must be.
Understanding sexual consent is also a big part of what we teach. However, sex education is not taught in most schools. Their champions of change programme works with to year-old boys in schools in Nicaragua for 18 months, and encourages empathy and respect towards girls. The programme uses workshops, role-play, skits and discussion.
Society tends to view people with learning difficulties as asexual and this can lead to abuse. Despite this, sexual education is not taught in many special needs schools around the world, including Romania.
Local communities have partnered with the IPPF, to help protect young people with intellectual disabilities and to empower them to understand their sexuality. Eugenia Behar, a psychologist who works on the programme and has an autistic daughter, says: In the beginning they can find it a bit uncomfortable and laugh. Then they get interested and speak their mind.
We explain that this is your personal space and that people should ask your permission to come closer. One resulting problem is that use of contraception has fallen rapidly. High costs, religious influence and a distrust of modern contraceptives as a hangover from Soviet times — when healthy family planning options were limited — are not helping the situation, says Jens-Hagen Eschenbaecher, regional adviser for the area at the UNFPA. The result is that young people are left vulnerable to STIs and unplanned pregnancies.
Partnering with the IPPF, a group of young volunteers go into schools and talk to small groups of children aged about pregnancy, STIs, contraceptives and sexuality. They encourage discussion and let the children do most of the talking. Each group is told they are a certain STI and they have to gather the symptoms. The response from the children is great because no one else talks to them about these topics. The subject of sex and sexuality is so sensitive in the Middle East that few formal educational programmes exist.
However, young people are finding creative ways to communicate using the internet and social media. When Ashraf Abumaraq, 32, an employee at a software company in New York, worked for an educational NGO in Palestine for 11 years, he witnessed a lack of knowledge around sex education and wanted to use his technical skills to help. At first there was a lot of push-back. People were offended and kept trying to take down the website.
There were also rumours about me, including that I was trying to set up a sex shop. It took around six months for people to come around. Now communities in Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria want to help. However, contraception, consent, gender equality and LGBT issues are not taught.
MyQuestion, set up by Eva, allows young people to get answers to their questions about sex by text, phone or social media. It means that young people can get anonymous advice from any location at any time. Seven advisers man the service every day and young people can ask questions about anything, from sex and contraception, to periods and relationships.
The service is popular — Eva says that 12,, questions are sent by text alone each month — because it provides accurate, non-judgmental and confidential information anonymously.