The idea of ‘Mature in life: Storytelling project on Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE)’ was to leverage technology as a way of communication for younger people and enhance the importance of CSE. The visuals for the project presented sexual activities combined with pop-cultural references through the use of emojis which are widespread and well recognized and photos altered with a “glitch”. The idea of the glitch was to show that there is a glitch within our own understanding of sexuality and education. It serves as a reference to the cultural issues which are constantly drawn around comprehensive sexuality education, which is not being implemented in a scientific and evidence-based way.

We had a couple of activities during the project period including workshops on CSE, production of infographics, blog posts and videos. We started by collecting stories from young people about what information they felt they were missing and whether they had any events which they thought could have been avoided if they had more knowledge about sexuality. It was quite hard reaching people: we used different social media channels and a survey to create our content and ensure its relevance. We opted for five stories, two of which were about STI testing (one story was told by a young trans person), one about menstruation, one about the cultural concept of virginity and one about healthy communication in youth relationships. The videos started to attract young people to our channel which demonstrated that there was concrete demand for content that tackled similar issues in a simple way, using simple language. Two infographics were developed as part of the project as well. Since there is not much information or discussion around safe sexting, and we know that young people practice that, we dedicated one infographic to online security while sending nudes or any potentially incriminating photo content, and the other one was dedicated to STIs. We are currently in the process of securing funding to continue this type of activity for a longer period, to meet the high demand we had for this type of information sharing.

We discovered, through implementing workshops, that there is always the same issue of young people acting like they do not care at first, but then reacting positively later during the workshop. This is an ongoing problem when discussing the sole topic of comprehensive sexuality education, or better to say, topics. People tend to be quite reserved and there is a fear that we will open doors which they are not yet ready to open, when discussing pleasure, sexuality, and healthy relationships.

We reached out to one of the high schools in the city with whom we have a long-standing relationship, with this being the third year of implementing workshops on CSE at this institution. We implemented the workshops in November, as planned, reaching 75 young people, 80% of which were young girls, aged between 15-17. The topics of these workshops were: consent, gender, sex, sexual rights of youth and stereotypes. The materials were science-based, and we made sure not to discriminate any group. Since we have sufficient experience in developing resources about sexuality, reproduction, identity and similar topics from the comprehensive sexuality education pool, we have combined lectures with practical games and interactive discussions.

As previously mentioned, this was the third year we’ve implemented the workshops in this setting. It would have been good to have had the same information back in 2016 as this would have created solid ground for an in-depth research project on how young people, who have been learning about different CSE topics for years, react to new materials. We could have identified and measured the difference in the impact of the different types of CSE.

The workshops are always a great way to promote values and human rights, but since we live in a time of social media, the videos, infographics and blog posts were and are the platforms that gave added value to this project. The content will be online and easily accessible through our social media channels and our website for the foreseeable future. We found technology to be the best method of communication and storytelling for today’s society. The project gave me hope that there are young people who are ready to learn in informal ways and that smart use of technology can open up alternative spaces for discussion on important issues. There is so much material online around CSE and a huge portion of it is neither science nor evidence-based. This project helped us change that.

 

 

Marinella Matejcic is an advocate and a Women Deliver Young Leader. The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program is a catalyst for rising advocates, providing access to small grants, training, a digital university, speaking opportunities, and networking. Since 2010, a total of 700 young people from 138 countries have increased their impact through the award-winning program so far. Many will be coming together in Vancouver this June for Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality. This piece was produced in partnership between Women Deliver and Wellbeing for Women.

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