Comprehensive Sex Education: The Key To Meeting Family Planning 2020’s Goals

The fourth in a series of articles from FP2020 to mark the midpoint of the initiative.

By Fiona Salter - Global Daily / A Content Partner of The Global Lead
Four years ago in July 2012, the global family planning community made pledges to provide access to contraceptive to an additional 120 million women and girls by 2020.
As we reach the halfway mark on July 11th, it’s clear we need to do more if we are to achieve that target.
So far we’ve reached 24.4 million women and girls with lifesaving contraception, but that’s 10 million fewer than we had hoped to reach by this time. If we continue at this rate, we risk missing our goal—and leaving millions of women and girls without the care and services they need and deserve.
We know millions of young people around the world face barriers to family planning. Finding accurate information shouldn’t be one of them.
A key factor in reaching the target is providing young people with accurate, unbiased information about their health and rights, at a time in their lives when they need it most.
Adolescence is a critical, transformative time in anyone’s life, but all the evidence shows that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) needs to start earlier than that. Many young people are already sexually active by adolescence, and vulnerable to human rights abuses such as being coerced into unwanted sex or marriage – putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections and dangerous childbirth.

There are still huge logistical obstacles to overcome when it comes to reaching FP2020 goals. But a lack of sexuality education shouldn’t be one of them.
The right CSE can help tackle these risks and empower them to stand up for rights-based family planning. But for millions of young people across the world, sexuality education – if it happens at all – will be too little, too late.
That’s more than a missed opportunity, it’s a major failure. There’s plenty of evidence in the education sector found that high quality, comprehensive sexuality education is a win-win intervention – it builds confidence, develops positive self-esteem, encourages healthy behavior and the type of critical thinking that can last a life-time.
Earlier this year IPPF launched a campaign Know It, Own It to call on governments to make CSE available to everyone.
Our campaign report – ‘Everyone’s Right to Know – delivering comprehensive sexuality education’ – shows that CSE must be delivered both in and outside of school, and crucially, it must be broader in focus than just avoiding risk and unintended pregnancies – it should encompass consent, building healthy and respectful relationships, good sexual health and protecting potentially vulnerable people from harm.
We know that there is a lost generation of young people who are deprived of the opportunity to go to school – and therefore receive any sexuality education. 124 million aged 6-15 had either never started school or dropped out. In Zambia, only 35% of young women attend secondary school, and only 38% of young men.
The good news is that non-formal sexuality education, delivered through for example, peer educators and youth clubs, are delivering some of the most innovative and effective programs.
At IPPF we don’t want anyone to miss out on choosing for themselves whether they have children, when they have them or how many they have. That’s why we are increasing our commitments to family planning and to comprehensive sexuality education.
There are still huge logistical obstacles to overcome when it comes to reaching FP2020 goals. But a lack of sexuality education shouldn’t be one of them.
Today’s is the largest ever generation of young people. We owe it to them to make sure everyone – in school or out of school – can learn the facts about their sexual health and reproductive rights – not only to avoid risk, but to build the foundations of healthy, happy relationships.
July11 marked the midpoint of Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), the global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. This blog is part of a series that looks at a key intervention to accelerate progress on our goal to enable an additional 120 million women and girls to use modern family planning methods: ensuring young people have the right to plan their families and their futures. We know that the ability to reach more young people with contraception in ways that speak to their own needs and desires is essential to achieving our goal by 2020, which is a critical milestone on the road to 2030 and providing universal access to family planning under the Sustainable Development Goals. For more information, visit
Image:Planned Parenthood.