By Kuena Diaho
Kuena, from the YWCA of Lesotho, was an intern at the World YWCA for the year 2010. She was a member of the YWCA delegation that attended CSW. Kuena attended a workshop on Gender and rights at CSW55 and shares her thoughts on the matter.
Remembering vividly the first time sex was mentioned to me (not by my peers) and how I had giggled out of embarrassment, I sit in this room full of young women from around the world, and women who are possibly mothers and mentors in their own right, and mull over whether I would have still childishly guffawed if the word “gender” was used instead of “sex”. While looking around the full room for a place to sit, I looked at the curious faces of the participants at CSW 55. Their faces tell nothing about what they say to their daughters about sexuality, or how their mothers or mentors address such issues as puberty, feelings, body changes or even contraception to them, if at all. But as the speaker rescued me, I consciously decided sex and sexuality is no laughing matter when it comes to the impact it has on young women and why it is important .
Why SRHR is important:
- Rights based approach used (Declaration of sexual rights used 2008)
- Link between autonomy and protection
- Gender transformable approach
- Period of adolescence is the most crucial – young people change, not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. The body and sexuality are not only a biological phenomenon, and during puberty gender disparities are deepened
- There is a double burden of being young and born a female. In many communities girls are put out of school and forced into early marriages, resulting in horrible states of social exclusion and isolation, subjected to harmful traditional practices and subject to abuse
- Girls experience more abuse than boys.
- Today, the woman who was raped yesterday, and who fell pregnant in her teens, the very same woman who was denied the right to speak and be heard, who advocates for gender and human rights, that woman would reason for the inclusion and prioritising of the adolescent, the beloved girl child whom she believes carries the key to development, because adolescents:
- Have a positive economic social effect
- The adolescent/girl child needs to be given an identity, she needs to be found, given information, counted, trained, and given skills. The girl child needs to be empowered to stand up for herself and break social isolation. She needs to keep herself connected and safe, to foster her leadership through mentors and to be kept in school.
The woman who was confused by her sexuality and desperately, but in silence, sought explanation, today says, comprehensive sexual education is needed because:
Gender and power matter. Traditional gender norms that prevent young women from using contraception of any form, and the power to negotiate safe sex, are addressed when sexual education is provided in schools.
There are additional benefits of addressing gender which include equitable gender and less intimate partner violence. This can be addressed through the critical thinking of students and participatory learning.
Young women are marginalised because they lack economic power. Sexual education helps girls develop healthy behaviours and goes beyond just intimate relationships. It is useful in combating gender based violence and transforms women from being passive receivers, to active ones.