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Project works to promote sexual health education in Georgia

By Anna Kamushadze
Thursday, February 21
On February 19, the EU/UNFPA-funded Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in the South Caucasus (RHIYC) kicked off a second round of trainings for South Caucasus youth organizations working on young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.

This week’s three-day training focuses on management and advocacy skills, with RHIYC hosting representatives of 15 organizations from all three South Caucasian states, according to RHIYC spokeswoman Gvantsa Asatiani.

Jeyran Rahmatullaeva of Azerbaijan said the training was useful in taking on the challenges advocates of sexual health education face in the staunchly traditional South Caucasus.

“Sometimes it is very complicated and difficult to approach reproductive health in the regions and districts, because our customs and traditions are very strong,” Rahmatullaeva said.

Azerbaijan only began teaching sexual health in schools last year, she pointed out, terming it ‘life knowledge.’

“Children are very open and accept the subject very well. The parents also are well disposed. Even from the regions, they ask us to come and give them new information and train them,” Rahmatullaeva told the Messenger.

The first training was held in September 2007, when nearly two dozen regional NGOs gathered in Batumi to learn skills for delivering sexual and reproductive health information to young people.

There is no comprehensive sexual and reproductive health course in Georgia’s national school curriculum. A previous effort to introduce a course floundered when some parents and students objected to the content of foreign textbooks translated into Georgia.

“Information about reproductive health is in demand, and we have to fulfill this demand by providing correct and complete information,” Kobaladze says.

Medical centers need an overhaul as well, he said; currently, social stigma makes young people hesitant to inquire about sexual health information and services.

Gldani teacher Nia Datunashvili agrees that sexual health education has a place in Georgian schools.

“Our children are very intelligent and developed in their early years, and I don’t think it will be harmful if reproductive health is a subject at schools. It will be good for the safety of our children’s future,” she said.

Gvantsa Asatiani, the RHIYC spokeswoman, says the organization is helping the Georgian government design a reproductive health school curriculum.

“Currently, we are working actively on developing a national concept on youth education on reproductive health issues,” she said. According to Asatiani, RHIYC proposed an advisory board of public representatives and experts, with the concept expected to be ready by this fall.

An EU/UNFPA co-funded project, RHIYC is a large-scale multi-partner project developed through the active participation of youth in the three Caucasus countries. The project aims at building national capacities and regional partnerships to improve sexual and reproductive health status of youth in the South Caucasus.

According to project representatives, successful implementation of the project will be a step forward towards bringing reproductive health services and rights in the South Caucasus closer to international standards. By achieving its goals, the project will assist countries in reaching Millennium Development Goals and contribute to the agenda of European integration.