sex educationBRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 21 –  Sex can be a very ticklish subject, particularly when teenagers are involved in the conversation.

But the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) understands that talking about sex can encourage teenagers to take better control of their sexual health and make decisions that can avoid unplanned pregnancies and other unwanted outcomes.

It’s for this reason that UNFPA, in its Integrated Strategic Framework for the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy in the Caribbean – which was developed in conjunction with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – promotes Health and Family Life Education (HFLE).

HFLE is the vehicle through which comprehensive sexuality education is delivered in the Caribbean. Its aim is to empower adolescents, both in and out of school, with knowledge and skills to make more informed choices about their health and wellness, including their sexual well-being.

An HFLE curriculum is life skills-based, interactive and student-centred and is delivered using a non-judgmental, human rights approach to important issues which have emerged in the Caribbean.

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) recently concluded that providing adolescents with information is the first step towards reducing adolescent pregnancies and unsafe abortions, as it empowers adolescents to make conscious and informed decisions.

By reaching adolescents early in puberty, school settings can provide young people with the information and skills they will need to make responsible decisions about their future sexual lives, the UNFPA says.

The UN agency has also recommended a sexual and reproductive health information programme, to teach parents how to talk to their children about sex.

“We all learn to do most things. One of the things we do not learn is to be a parent, and especially when being a parent is not your choice. Sometimes talking about sex is like a taboo for some parents. They do not know how to do it and it is easily not done,” says Director of the UNFPA Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Sheila Roseau.

The strategy is one of five elements outlined in the framework, which is aimed at reducing the number of adolescent pregnancies in each country of the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, by at least 20 per cent by 2019.