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Indian Youth Activist Calls for Comprehensive Sexuality Education at the United Nations

©A World At School

14.08.2013

When Sumaya Saluja, a young activist from India, asked young people gathering at the United Nations in New York for Malala Day whether they had heard of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and understood it, only five hands were raised. Unsurprised, Sumaya explained what sexuality education was all about and why it needed to become a priority.

“In my analysis,” Ms Saluja said, “it is not because young people don’t agree with the tenants of sexuality education but because there are very few young people who really understand and know about CSE.” 

Ms Saluja was invited to address participants at Malala Day on July 12, in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI). At the event, more than 500 young people from around the world convened to demand the rights of all children, especially girls, to a quality education.

Speaking to young people on behalf of UNESCO, and in her role as a member of the Youth Advisory Group for GEFI, Sumaya outlined how to advocate for CSE, drawing on the experience she had gained working with young people through the YP Foundation in New Delhi, where she had seen the need for sexuality education continuously reaffirmed. 

“Without sexuality education, violence, inequality, discrimination and marginalization is internalized culturally and thus not spoken about. CSE workshops provide adolescents and young people with a safe space to discuss, understand and seek accurate, complete and technical information on their sexuality, bodies, health and rights.”

Ms Saluja joined the YP Foundation in 2007 as a peer educator, training young people to work with children from low-resource backgrounds to increase their awareness of health and hygiene, leadership opportunities and access to education. 

During her time with the YP Foundation, she has:

• served as a peer educator with the Know Your Body, Know Your Rights project, consulting more than 400 young people on issues of gender, HIV prevention and sexuality education;

• conducted youth-led consultations to encourage the participation of adolescents in the National AIDS Control Programme, in partnership with Plan India and with technical support from UNESCO; and

• worked with approximately 550 street children between 4 – 15 years of age. 

In her most recent role as a member of the Youth Advisory Group, Ms Saluja is one of fifteen young people leading a global movement among young people, to ensure all children are in school and receiving a quality education. “Malala Day was the beginning of this aim,” Ms Saluja explained, attracting more than 600 young people to the cause. 

From her early days in a small town in Northern India to her later college years, education has always been a priority, Ms Saluja said. “As a young woman, in a country such as India, where economic independence is key for women to be able to negotiate and truly own choices regarding one’s own life, body and health, education becomes indispensable,” she said.

To learn more about UNESCO’s work on CSE go to:
www.unesco.org/new/en/hiv-and-aids/our-priorities-in-hiv/sexuality-education/

To learn more about the YP Foundation go to: www.theypfoundation.org

To connect with Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advisory Group go to:
globaleducationfirst.org/youthadvocacygroup.html

To learn more about collaboration between UNESCO New Delhi office and YP Foundation view:

Is There a Need for Sexuality Education for Young People in India? States and National Consultations on Comprehensive Sexuality Education

HIV and AIDS - Awareness Raising among the Youth in India