Research show that despite the attainment of puberty at early ages and the increasing rate of sexual activity among our youth, sexuality education and adolescent specific health services are not readily available; adolescents account for over 20% of the total births annually; the majority of abortion complications recorded in teaching hospitals across the country is among adolescent school girls and; the National AIDS and STD Control Programme (NASCP) revealed that young people between the age group of 15 – 29 years accounted for 57.8% of the cumulative AIDS cases in the country at the end of 1993.
Government and several NGOs have been making efforts to address these issues especially within the framework of the National Population Policy and the development of a Population Education and Family Life Education curricula by National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) and the Numerous HIV/AIDS control efforts.
However, there are still many gaps especially those relating to ensuring that the sexuality education efforts being implemented are addressing sexuality in a comprehensive way and that the people providing instructions are professionally trained sexuality educators, to ensure effective instruction.
It is because of this understanding that Action Health Incorporated have continued to promote the provision of high quality comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents through our Adolescent Health Programme. In line with AHIs vision to develop the expertise and capacity for implementing such programmes nationally, in January 1995, a Professional Sexuality Educators Workshop was organized by Action Health in collaboration with the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). For 30 years, SIECUS has maintained a leadership role in developing the most innovative sexuality education programmes, publications and professional training opportunities in the United States of America.
Participants for workshop were drawn from among AHI staff and resource persons and representatives of adolescent serving NGOs from different parts of Nigeria namely Girls Power Initiative, National Parents Teachers Association, and Prison Research Welfare Action. The workshop was facilitated by Trainers from SIECUS and in-country costs were funded by the International Women’s Health Coalition, (IWHC) New York.
Adolescents in Nigeria are caught up between tradition and Influx of other cultures brought about by the technological revolutions in travel and communication. Urbanization, Modernization and the influence of modern literature, radio, music, video and cable television have gone a long way in reshaping the prevailing sexual code of conduct. As such, we find that the generation gap that exists between young people and adults is great. For instance, a few decades back, it would have been considered outrageous, even sacrilegious to find unmarried teenage lovers embracing, hugging or kissing in the open. However in present day, 1995 Nigeria, such public display of affection is considered standard practice among young people.
Among the myriad of factors affecting adolescent sexuality is that traditional mechanisms for coping and regulating young girls’ sexuality like the adherence to norms like chastity before marriage is being eroded. Today’s adolescent attach very little, if any value to “virginity on the marriage night”, which in the past was a major form of control. Unfortunately, trends like these are not matched by an equal rate of change in the mechanisms available to Nigeria adolescents for coping and dealing with these new experiences.
Defining human sexuality
After much deliberations and debates, a consensus was reached that Human Sexuality is holistic concept referring to the totality of being a human. It includes all those aspects of a human being that relates specifically to being boy or girl and woman or man. Sexuality reflects our human character not solely our genital nature. As a function of total personality, it is concerned with the biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual and cultural variables of life which affects personality development and interpersonal relationship in the society.
Sexuality Education is therefore a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image and gender roles. Sexuality Education addresses the biological, sociocultural, psychological and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from
1. The cognitive domain
2. The affective domain
3. The behavioral domain
Including the skills to communicate effectively and make responsible decisions.
It was noted that there is a huge discrepancy between this definition and people’s perception of sexuality education especially that it promotes sexual activity among adolescents. Fortunately, several research studies, including the 1993 World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned study on the effects of sex educations on young peoples sexual behavior, have conclusively proven that “…there is no evidence to support the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased sexual activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and effective use of contraception”.
CONCLUSION AND PLAN OF ACTION
The Workshop Was Rounded up with Closing Ceremony this was also used as a debriefing session for the invited representatives of key organizations interested in Adolescent Health issues in Nigeria. Those in attendance includes the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Ford Foundation, National Parents Teachers Association, Directorate of Child Guidance and Counseling of the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Family Health International/AIDSCAP ad mass media organizations.
As part of the follow up, Action Health will in collaboration with SIECUS, plan follow-up meetings with other lead agencies and adolescent-serving NGOs in Nigeria to facilitate the establishment of a National Task Force that will come up with Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education for the country.