Project on Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights Education for women and Girls in a Catholic Church, a project of Center for Advancement of Development Rights (CEADER), Nigeria
CEADER’s organizational goal is to increase women’s capacity to overcome poverty and increase their participation in development activity. CEADER works to promote and protect economic and social rights. The right to health, including reproductive and sexual rights and other components of health care are categorized under economic and social rights. Furthermore, CEADER’s projects in slum communities seek to address sexuality and reproductive issues amongst slum.
CEADER’s work is generally carried out under three main programmes: (1)TheWomen’s Rights Programmes seeks to educate women in local communities and relevant stakeholders on women’s economic and social rights. It generates a better understanding of the link between women’s economic status and their economic and social rights. (2) The Evaluation and Monitoring Programme seeks to monitor and evaluate local women’s economic and social rights and government’s compliance to local and international laws on economic, social and cultural rights in its design and implementation of poverty reduction programmes.(3) The International Partnership Programme facilitates the organization’s collaborations with international partners in it’s monitoring and advocacy to increase enforcement of women’s economic and social rights in Nigeria. It also facilitates exchange of ideas and experiences on economic and social rights between organizations in different locations/regions.
Project: Project on Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights Education for women and Girls in a Catholic Church in Umunkwo, Imo State, Nigeria
The overall objective of this project is to provide sexuality and reproductive rights education to female church workers who in turn pass this knowledge to young women in the Catholic Church located in eastern part of Nigeria where issues of sexuality and reproductive rights are neglected.
This was done through:
- Educate women and girls of harmful effects of some traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
- provide holistic information on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls
- encourage young persons to speak out when denied their sexual and reproductive health and rights
- equip and encourage beneficiaries to become peer educators on sexuality and reproductive health issues
The central strategy of this project was the re-negotiation of the Catholic tradition of abstinence and silence around issues of sexuality and reproductive health. Discussions regarding sexuality and reproductive issues are virtually forbidden in many religious institutions but particularly the Catholic Church. As a result teenage pregnancy has become rampant young girls as many engage in sexual activities with very little or no information on sexuality and reproduction. Incidents of teenage pregnancy were the main reason leaders of the church agreed to the implementation of this project. The new strategy was to use incidents of teenage pregnancy to convince the Catholic Church to accept sexuality education
This project created space for both the young women to express themselves on issues of reproductive and sexual rights. The focus group discussion organized under the project provide space for the young girls to share their experience regarding sexual and reproductive issues. Virtually all the participants affirmed that their parents withhold very important sexuality information. The focus group discussion also provided an opportunity for the girls to contribute to the content of the training for the women. The training for the women was made very interactive and also gave the women opportunity to discuss their own experience and traditional obstacles.
The knowledge generated in the course of implementing this project has increase beneficiaries’ understanding of sexuality and reproductive rights, it has also equipped them with the knowledge to protect their sexual and reproductive rights and methods for seeking redress in the event of violations of these rights
CEADER also utilized the production and distribution of IEC materials for educating beneficiaries on their sexual and reproductive rights. The IEC materials have remained useful in passing-on the knowledge gained from this project to other people in the church and community.
Women and young girls have been equipped and empowered on sexuality and reproductive rights and thus have gained the ability and knowledge to challenge and overcome culture and religious practices that hinder the exercise of their sexuality and reproductive rights. They were encouraged to overcome the culture of silence on sexuality issues and replaced with an evolving culture that freely discusses and seeks information around sexuality issues.
IEC materials produced under this project have been used to sustain sexuality education amongst secondary beneficiaries of the project and in the long run, women and young girls will have adequate sexuality and reproductive rights information to take informed decisions to protect their lives and have safer lives.
Furthermore, cases of unplanned and teenage pregnancy will reduce significantly. This will ultimately result in sexual and reproductive behavioral change amongst women, young girls and men/boys of the church/community.
This project generated new knowledge amongst women and young girls in specific gender-based discriminatory practices: Example:
- Recognition of equality of both sexes rather than the traditional male-child preference;
- Resolution not to punish young girls for teenage pregnancy-de-stigmatization of teenage pregnancy;
- Introduction of sexuality education in the counseling session carried out by the catholic church women trained under this project
The project has the gained the commitment of the Reverend Father, who commended the training and committed to welcome such projects in the future. He also encouraged the young women and church female workers to share lessons gained with others who did not benefit. The beneficiary organization has since shared the reports and plans to continue to raise funds in order to replicate the training in other churches in the state. The beneficiaries have also continued to contact the Medical personnel who served as a resource person during the training seeking clarifications on sexuality isuues. The project will further rely on the Reverend father to reach other religious leaders especially those with conservative ideas on sexuality rights.