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CSE Choice


Revolutionizing CSE: Latin American and Caribbean Youth Leading the Charge!

The article sheds light on the critical lack of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for young people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through the personal stories of youth advocates Claudia Hel...

Revolutionizing CSE: Latin American and Caribbean Youth Leading the Charge!



Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, St Lucia


Americas & the Caribbean


Comprehensive Sex Education

Shenelle Mc Donald, 24, St Lucia

Shenelle Mc Donald

In Latin America and the Caribbean, most young people lack access to high-quality comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), which deprives them of essential knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed for informed decision-making. This reality prevents them from accessing essential  tools and knowledge necessary to realize their right to sexual and reproductive health, well-being, and dignity, and hampers their ability to foster respectful relationships.

Claudia Helena Castro Nieto is a 19-year-old from Colombia and  member of IPPF's regional Youth Network and Profamilia. As a young woman in Latin America, her experience is emblematic. Reflecting on her school years, she reveals that “when students raised issues like menstruation or questions about pregnancies, the teachers remained silent. Sexual relations would only be addressed in the next religious service but but it would be addressed as a sin”.

In her ninth year of high school, as part of Claudia’s community work in High School, she began working with Profamilia, which brought her feelings of uneasiness. “The first day of training I felt uncomfortable, since it was not 'normal' to talk openly about sexuality, because in my house and at my school this topic was taboo” 

As time passed and the training deepened, Claudia felt comfortable speaking and engaging. And she changed her perception, understanding for the first time that there was something called "Comprehensive Sexuality Education" and that it mattered in everyone's lives. “I fell in love with the work because at school I was not only going to study, but also to help my classmates with the information I had received”. However, as time passed and Claudia immersed herself in the work of Profamilia related to CSE, she also learned  that “even if a great work is done in the delivery of CSE, there are ideological and funding barriers that hinder the access.”

- Claudia Helena Castro, 19, Colombia

Claudia Helena Castro
“I firmly believe that the emphasis of CSE should be on the development of communication skills, so that young people can express their needs, understand the needs of their partners and/or environment, and make conscious decisions”. - Claudia Helena Castro, 19, Colombia

Nowadays it is common to hear terms such as "love bombing" and "ghosting" among young people. To address this, Claudia suggests that  communication skills such as the ones learned in CSE can allow them to understand these expressions and what they mean in practical terms,enabling them to establish boundaries and discern between a healthy and toxic relationship .This is an example of how CSE is an essential part of learning to interact, not only sexually but also affectionately.

Claudia also believes that talking to adults about CSE is quite challenging. “CSE should not only be taught to young people and children, but also to adults and older people so we can win more allies and establish collective efforts to promote it. Young people with their innovative ideas have shown that it is possible to live in a different world than the one we have been “sold”. Therefore, it is important to continue to train leaders in CSE so that the voice does not remain in just one generation, but rather, it continues to gain strength over time.” And Claudia is absolutely right. Evidence shows that a major benefit of CSE being delivered both to parents and children is that kids are able to have the knowledge learned at school reinforced at home. CSE can also help their children and themselves to make better informed decisions about their own sexual and reproductive rights.

Fortunately, Claudia is not alone in her learning, as are many others in the region, Shenelle Mc Donald, a 24-year-old woman, member of the Youth Advocacy Movement St. Lucia & IPPFs Regional Youth Network, learned that the age at which CSE is introduced is  crucial and the delivering CSE must be approached with an in-depth understanding of cultural sensitivity in place “as it fosters a sense of trust between educators and students and creates an environment conducive to learning”.

Claudia and Shenelle stories highlight the challenges young people in Latin America and the Caribbean face due to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education. It emphasizes the urgent need for a more inclusive and informative approach to sexuality education, urging policymakers and educators to prioritize the implementation of high-quality CSE programming. By implementing age-appropriate and inclusive CSE, adolescents and young people like Claudia and Shenelle can be equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate their sexual and reproductive health confidently and responsibly.

Claudia and Shenelle, also explained the role of young people in the current public debate around CSE: “youth are contributing to destigmatizing sexuality education by actively engaging in advocacy. They are engaging in public debates, sharing peer to peer information, and leveraging social media platforms [...] young peoples’ involvement is key to challenging societal norms and fostering a more informed and open-minded community.” 

However, as  Claudia explains, young people face another challenge in the way some governments understand  education, “in general, education in Colombia turns out to be a provision of service and it is not seen as a right which hinders CSE”. This view of the education system impacts young people and their right to learn, CSE as well as the right to Education is not only grounded in international conventions, including on health, the child, and education, but CSE has been shown to have a positive and indispensable role in the realization and protection of those rights.

IPPF’s CSE work: get engaged

Currently, IPPF’s global CSE work is led by Ashlee Burnett, 26, from Trinidad and Tobago.

Ashlee Burnett

As a federation, IPPF acknowledges the transformative and life-changing power of CSE in and out-of-school. That’s why it is strengthening the work in partnership with its member associations and youth networks  while providing technical guidance to ensure adherence  to the international quality standards. 

As of 2024, IPPF has created four Centers of Excellence on CSE, in Togo, Ghana, The Netherlands and Colombia. These centers act as hubs for information and supporting the Federation’s members to strengthen their delivery of CSE programming.  The center in Colombia, runned by IPPF’s member association Profamilia provides knowledge and technical expertise to educators, activists, government representatives, and to institutions, supporting them to implement and better advocate for CSE. Additionally, IPPF Regional Youth Network provides a platform for youths from  our member associations to co-learn and co-create national and regional interventions to promote the delivery of CSE.

Profamilia’s commitment to communities and youth can be seen through their youth network made up of more than 1,000 young people from all over the country, advocating together for comprehensive sexuality education.. In their day-by-day it is normal to see 14-year-olds leading workshops to people older than them about CSE, breaking with the traditional idea that only adults can teach.

Another recent initiative happened In December 2023, IPPF Americas and the Caribbean (IPPF ACRO) and partners launched the SRHR Caribbean Observatory with the mission to  advocate for robust policy and programs for the elimination of Gender Based Violence in our society by forging indispensable links to accessibility of SRHR. The Observatory platform will empower this work through the most comprehensive evidence-based data in Caribbean sexual reproductive health and rights. This is the first of its kind in the region, demonstrating innovation and a commitment to cross-country collaboration and ensuring that quality education and quality SRH care are delivered.

What is next: working towards CSE for all

The experiences of Claudia, Shenelle and many more like them in the region shed light on the critical issues young people face due to the inadequate access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) while also underscoring the transformative power of CSE; this curriculum program has the potential to impact and aid in empowering adolescents and young people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This is why the commitment of organizations like IPPF, with its Centers of Excellence on CSE and initiatives like the SRHR Caribbean Observatory, demonstrates a proactive effort to address these challenges and foster a more open-minded community. 

As we move forward, it is crucial for policymakers, educators, and society at large to prioritize and invest in high-quality CSE programming, ensuring that young people are equipped with the knowledge and tools to navigate their sexual and reproductive health confidently and responsibly. The engagement of youth in advocacy, public debates, and peer-to-peer information sharing is key to challenging societal norms and building a safer and more informed future for all.