The ‘Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Programme’
The ‘Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Programme’
The largest comprehensive sexual education programme in Africa

Challenges


Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 158 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24, a figure expected to rise to 281 million by 2050. This demographic dividend represents tremendous potential, but risks being derailed if the barriers to young people’s health and education, including HIV, sexual and gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and child marriage are not addressed. Africa’s female youth face a disproportionately high risk of HIV infection. Three out of four new HIV infections among those aged 1519 are among young women, and seven out of ten young women do not have comprehensive HIV knowledge. Early and unintended pregnancy and gender-based violence pose serious barriers to young people’s health and right to education. Investing in the education and health of adolescents and young people is critical for them to realize their rights to health, well-being, education, and full and equal participation in society. 

Towards a Solution


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Programme seeks to improve sexual and reproductive health, gender and education outcomes for adolescents and youth in sub-Saharan Africa through sustained reductions in new HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, early and unintended pregnancy, and gender-based violence. It is the largest comprehensive sexuality education programme in sub-Saharan Africa, covering 33 countries, with a budget exceeding US$45 million, with financial contributions from France, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the Packard Foundation.  

 

The five-year programme (20182022) expects to reach 24.9 million learners in 72,000 primary and secondary schools, and 51,000 pre-service and 402,000 in-service teachers. Additionally, it expects to reach 30.5 million people (parents, guardians, religious leaders and young people out of school) through community engagement activities, and 10 million young people through social and new media platforms.  

 

The Programme has adopted an innovative approach of a three-tier country system of programme ‘acceleration countries, ‘focus countries and ‘networking countries. This three-tier approach enables the transfer of knowledge and experience across the countries, allowing them to learn from each other. The exchange is facilitated through the Regional Learning Platform, exchange visits and face-to-face meetings. The web-based Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) learning platform facilitates knowledge exchange across all countries implementing the O3 Programme. The platform has a digital library where various resources and documents on CSE, including CSE frameworks, curricula, and teaching and learning materials can be accessed by government and key stakeholders. 

 

The Programme places young people at the centre – with a specific focus on young women. For this reason, although it is focused on comprehensive sexuality education and access to sexual and reproductive health services, it has also integrated a wider approach that addresses the prevention of violence in schools and child marriage, as well as greater school health strengthening.  

 

UNESCO ensures sustainability by building and sustaining ownership of the Programme by establishing mechanisms so that it is driven by ministries of education and health from national to decentralized levels. A key feature of this Programme is its support in incorporating CSE in policies and strategies to ensure that it is institutionalized as a priority planned and budgeted for, instead of creating dependency on external assistance. Sustainability of CSE is further ensured through the knowledge and capacity-building of teachers, curriculum developers, school heads and inspectors. The incorporation of specific indicators on the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education into Education Management Information Systems will ensure that data is collected annually and used for planning. Building the capacities of young people and communities to act as advocates ensures long-term support for comprehensive sexuality education. 

 

The O3 Programme builds on the landmark 2013 Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Through this programme, UNESCO is supporting West and Central Africa in replicating the success of ESA 

 

In 2019, UNESCO, in collaboration with partners, began a process of developing a Continental Strategy on Sexuality Education for the African Union. To ensure a more comprehensive response to the growing opposition to ‘CSE’, it was decided to rename it the ‘Continental Strategy on Education for Health and Well-being for Adolescents and Young People in Africa’. The purpose of the Strategy is to ensure that all young people acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable them to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions, and respond to local and global challenges.  

 

Programme outcomes: 

 

  • The Let’s Talk! Campaign was launched, inviting the positive role model champions from ESA to engage in conversations about the causes and consequences of early and unintended pregnancy, and its solutions.  
  • For French-speaking countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the programme developed a mobile application called Hello Ado, providing information, peer-to-peer interaction and services on CSE. 
  • The Programme developed an in-service teacher-training package, which borrows from existing teacher training modules for the ESA region and incorporates new elements that provide an opportunity for teachers to practise teaching CSE in a simulated environment before they arrive at the classroom, and to receive immediate feedback. In 2019, more than 24,000 in-service teachers were trained.   
  • curriculum-based tool for addressing school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), Connect with Respect, developed for the Asia-Pacific region was customized and piloted in Eswatini, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to generate evidence to inform the adaptation of the tool to the ESA context, and develop contextually and culturally appropriate resources for schools on SRGBV and management. This is an example of how this Programme has utilized available tools rather than duplicating existing ones.  
  • UNESCO developed a parent-child communication (PCC) manual which provides information to parents about adolescent sexuality and reproductive health and facilitate honest conversations between themselves and adolescents and young people. 

Contact Information

Name: Mr. Chris Castle, Title: Chief of Section of Health and Education, Organization: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Name: Ms. Patricia Machawira, Title: Senior National Project Officer, Organization: UNESCO Harare

Supported by

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Countries involved

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Côte D'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Implementing Entities

Governments of the 33 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Regional Economic Communities (SADC and EAC), networks of young people, civil society organizations

Project Status

Ongoing

Project Period

2018 - 2022

URL of the practice

https://cse-learning-platform-unesco.org/

Primary SDG

04 - Quality Education

Secondary SDGs

03 - Good Health and Well-being, 05 - Gender Equality, 16 - Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
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