Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Education

IMG_2818Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are concerned with a number of issues ranging from maternal and infant health to sexual violence. In many developing countries, sexual and reproductive health is recognized as an essential component of poverty reduction, particularly in relation to reducing high fertility and mortality rate, the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and addressing sexual violence.

The inter-relationships between SRHR and education

IMG_1900SRHR relates to education in various direct and indirect ways. First of all, what is concerning to many educators is the fact that schools are sites where some of the most distressing concerns relating to SRHR originate, such as sexual abuse, spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Moreover, the education system is burdened with various SRHR concerns such as unwanted pregnancies, sexual abuse, early marriage and HIV/AIDS and other STIs, as they tend to negatively influence students’ academic achievement, attendance rate, and the quality of their educational experiences, leading in some cases to early drop-out.  For instance, adolescents who become pregnant are likely to have lower educational attainments, in part due to policies in some countries permitting or mandating expulsion of pregnant students. Despite some recent policies aimed at keeping pregnant girls at school, in practice few girls continue with their schooling during their pregnancies due to stigma, bullying and discrimination. Likewise, sexual abuse has wide-ranging negative consequences on the individuals involved. In addition to its harmful effects on the well-being, psychological and intellectual development of girls and boys who were subjected to it, sexual abuse also has consequences on their education. When it takes place between peers or when the perpetrator is a teacher, victims might feel agony about coming to school, or be present in a specific class. These might eventually lead to school alienation and withdrawal.

IMG_0875Furthermore, education can play important and powerful roles in addressing some of the most distressing concerns related to SRHR. Children and young people spend a great deal of their time at schools due to increasing number of enrolments rates at primary and secondary schools in developing countries in the past decades. Hence, childhoods have increasingly become institutionalized worldwide; and schools have developed into key networks of social relations. Consequently, schools play a highly important role in socializing children and young people on various issues that are central to their life, including gender relations and sexuality. For this reason, whether a specific school provides education on sexuality through prescribed curriculum or not, every school is in fact involved in ‘educating’  its children and youth through an informal, hidden curriculum which enables  its students to acquire knowledge and understanding on sexuality, and to negotiate sexuality with peers and teachers within the school community.

SRHR and Education within IS Academie programme

Within the framework of IS Academie programme, we are organising various research activities in order to explore the nexus between SRHR and education. For this purpose, we co-operate with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, OXFAM/NOVIB and EDUKANS. Some of our research output, and studies conducted by our Master students are listed below:

  • Miedema, E., and Millei, Z. (2015) ‘‘We reaffirm our Mozambican identity in the fight against HIV & AIDS’; emplacing young people through HIV- and AIDS-related education in Mozambique’. Special Issue Global Studies of Childhood, 5(1), pp. 7-18.
  • Miedema, E., Maxwell, C. & Aggleton, P. (2014). The unfinished nature of rights-informed HIV- and AIDS-related education: a discussion of three school-based initiatives. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning.

MASTER THESES:

For further information on the research activities on this theme, please contact Esther Miedema (E.A.J.Miedema@uva.nl) and/or Marielle Le Mat (M.L.J.leMat@uva.nl).