Based on presentation delivered at the Advocacy for Comprehensive Sexuality Education meeting, October 2015, Washington D.C.
Political environment often determines advancements in CSE, with progress fluctuating as conservative and liberal governments come and go. In Latin America and the Caribbean, most donors have already phased out of the region. With low financial resources, advocates have learned how to make the most of South–South collaboration, bringing experts and high-level decision-makers together to exchange technical knowledge and best practices. As a result, civil society and key agencies have sought to work with governments to ensure they are meeting their obligations to provide access to CSE and youth-friendly services.
The regional advocacy strategy for CSE has been discussed with key government and civil society partners, and advocates have established a network of consultants and experts to work on curriculum development, monitoring and evaluation. Ongoing advocacy is a key aspect of the strategy, which takes a three-pronged approach: strengthening programmes already in place, supporting the leadership of the education sector, and providing technical assistance in a variety of modes. The strength of the education sector, and its leadership in implementing CSE programmes, has been credited for generating support, ensuring continuity and scaling up of programmes such as in Colombia and Argentina.
Simultaneously, a multi-stakeholder approach is essential, because the positive outcomes of CSE programmes are demonstrated across the areas of health and well-being, education, and gender equality. Because the Latin America and the Caribbean region continues to have one of the highest adolescent birth rates in the world, after West and Central Africa, and East and Southern Africa,5 CSE advocates are making concerted efforts to improve health, education and equality outcomes for girls a top priority.
UNFPA has supported and convened strategic meetings with high-level stakeholders, and collaborates closely with civil society partners at both the regional and country levels. The UNFPA regional office analysis of best practices in CSE advocacy features case studies showing what has worked. These studies include analysis of the factors leading to advancements in Cuba, where inter-sectoral coordination and high-level leadership from a prominent national champion have made a significant difference.
In El Salvador, as a result of change in administration, advocates focus on creating a strong institutional basis for CSE, including curriculum development and training programmes for teachers. In Mexico, as in many countries, the curriculum is overloaded with competing subjects. Although the introduction of CSE as a cross-cutting subject prevented sexuality education from being side lined, this created significant challenges that indicate the value of advocating for stand-alone CSE programmes.
These best practice case studies and others have not only proved useful in high-level meetings – they have inspired countries to reach out for technical assistance, both in contexts where CSE programming is weak, and in contexts where there have been major successes. The focus is now shifting towards tackling outstanding challenges.