The Sexual Health Education Gap Among Jamaica’s Youth
Realizing that a holistic and accurate sex education program relies on more than just the school system, NGOs have stepped in to fill the gap. The Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) is one organization working to empower young people--and the institutions that serve them--to access sexual and reproductive health services. “Youth is a priority area of work at JFPA,” says St. Rachel Ustanny, JFPA Executive Director. “[Our work] builds young people’s capacity to access sexual and reproductive health services and make informed decisions. We promote access to services as a human right.”
The belief that having access to sexual health services is a human right, and not just information about the biology of reproduction, guides JFPA’s Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM). YAM meets young people where they are – in schools – and offers safe, peer-directed spaces where adolescents can receive additional sexuality education from people their own age and ask questions they might be too timid to ask their teachers during class. Since many teens look to peers for information on sexuality and sexual health, several NGOs across Jamaica rely on peer-driven programs like YAM to share sexual health information.
“Establishing the YAM in schools is an attempt to increase youth access to sexual and reproductive health information. By carrying out its work within schools, rather that requiring students visit the JFPA clinic, the young people are better able to have successful meetings and educate their peers,” Ustanny says.