Rethinking Sexuality Education

The Council conducts research and provides resources and technical assistance to help place gender, rights, and empowerment at the heart of sex and HIV education.

The Issue

Sexuality and HIV education can help adolescents develop the capacity for healthy, respectful relationships and protect themselves from unwanted and unsafe sex, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection. Many countries have launched programs to educate adolescents about sex and sexual health. Evidence suggests that sexuality education programs that address gender and power in relationships are more successful at achieving positive health outcomes than are programs that do not.

The Progress

Since 2004, the Rethinking Sexuality Education project has promoted a paradigm shift in the sexuality education field—toward an approach that fosters the development of critical thinking skills and emphasizes learning and reflection about the ways that gender, power in relationships, rights, and other aspects of social context, like race/ethnicity and class, can affect sexual relations. This approach can be applied both in formal education and in community-based programs.

Key activities of the Rethinking Sexuality Education project include:

  • Conducting policy research and promoting dialogue with school systems and other organizations on the evidence for a new approach and next steps;
  • Developing technical resources, such as curricula, for sexuality and HIV education programs, and education ministries/departments;
  • Advising on pilot interventions—both in the United States and globally—that integrate sexuality, HIV, gender, rights, and critical thinking skills.

A key accomplishment of the Rethinking Sexuality Education project has been the development of It's All One Curriculum, a user-friendly curriculum-development resource package. It's All One Curriculum is available for free download.

The Impact

It’s All One has been in high demand since its first English publication in 2009 (a second, updated version was published in 2011). Requests have come from more than 150 countries and every state in the United States—from government agencies, international NGOs, and community organizations reaching young people.

The broadest reach of It’s All One is through ministries of education and school districts in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Several thousand community-based organizations use It’s All One. For example, it is being used with rural Mayan girls in Guatemala; young people in Haiti living with HIV; girls’ empowerment programs in southern Nigeria; young ethnic Tibetans in China; and members of the Mexican Scouts Association.

Educators are also using It’s All One in very conservative regions: in strict Islamic settings in northern Nigeria and Aceh Province in Indonesia, in polygamous communities in Utah, and in abstinence-only schools in Nevada. Teachers in these settings report that It’s All One is opening up safe ways to talk about sensitive issues like coercion, power, gender equality in relationships, and human rights.

It’s All One is being used in Population Council programs for adolescent girls in Bangladesh and Guatemala, and its success is being evaluated by the Council and other researchers in Bangladesh and Haiti.

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