Most of us have heard the so-called “ABC’s” of sexuality education before: Abstinence, be faithful, use a condom. But what about all of the other aspects of sexuality that aren’t covered by this three-letter model? There are many more letters in the alphabet.
Increasingly, sexuality educators, community members, families, and governments are acknowledging that comprehensive sexuality education and increased access to health services are a necessary foundation for curbing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS, facilitating a deeper understanding of one’s own sexuality, and ensuring every person’s right to a just and healthy life.
In part because of their extensive firsthand experience educating and empowering young girls in Nigeria, Bene Madunagu and Ndodeye Bassey of Girls Power Initiative recognize this fundamental truth. They teamed up with Kelly Castagnaro and Chelsea Ricker of IWHC to create a more complete alphabet of sexuality education intended to capture a safer, more realistic, and healthier understanding of sexuality.
Without further ado, here is the complete alphabet of sexuality education- moving towards a healthy and safe sexuality for all:
A- Accept and acknowledge that sex happens.
B – Be realistic.
C – Choices must be available and supported. Clarify your values and stand up against patriarchy and discrimination.
D – Deliver health information and services needed to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights.
E – Empower women and girls to control their own sexuality.
F – Funding for the implementation of international agreements and consensus documents that guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights, and protect women and girls from all forms of violence and discrimination.
G- Good sex is pleasurable, safe, guilt–free, and consensual.
H – Have fun. Sexuality is a normal and healthy part of human life.
I- Include people of different genders, sexualities and backgrounds. Never discriminate.
J- Joy in expression of safe and consensual pleasurable sexuality is a right of all human beings.
K- Knowledge, plus the skills to use the knowledge responsibly, is power.
L- Life skills for women and youth, accessible from a gender perspective without discrimination.
M – Make a u-turn if your instincts tell you “no.” Masturbation is always an option to express your sexuality.
N- NO means NO, whoever says it. NO is not sex specific.
O – Ongoing Comprehensive Sexuality Education for youth, parents and teachers is key to preventing HIV/ AIDS.
P- Parents, peers and all people need to be informed about pleasurable expressions of human sexuality.
Q – Question your assumptions and biases.
R- Respect the intelligence and abilities of adolescents. Respect all human beings and all forms of diversity.
S- Safer sex is always an option, and key to preventing HIV/AIDS.
T –Talk! Encourage open dialogue and discussion to halt ignorance and biases around human sexuality.
U- Understand that different people have different points of view.
V- Voice your opinion and make sure it’s heard and respected.
W – Watch the way that the world tries to influence you.
X –Two X chromosomes don’t make you less of a person.
Y- You have the right to control your own body.
Z – Zero tolerance for rape, discrimination and violence.
Bene Madunagu is the co-founder of Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI) in Nigeria.
Ndodeye Bassey is the Head of Department of Knowledge Management and Public Education in GPI Cross River State Branch.