Gender Inequality and Reproductive Health
Caring, supportive and trusted adults are essential to the healthy development of adolescents and young people. Building a relationship of trust and open communication, early on, contributes to greater confidence and self-esteem, which helps young people to avoid risky behaviour. Efforts to encourage parent and child communication are very important. Orphaned children, or those who have run away from home or are struggling to survive on their own, also need trusted adults to guide them.
Innovative HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health programmes are working with parents to foster better communication about sexuality and reproductive health. In one UNFPA-supported programme in Cambodia, parents and families were provided with brown paper bags filled with reproductive health information. Health and outreach workers then visited families to discuss the materials, listen to concerns, answer questions and provide health service referrals, if needed.
Successful programmes encourage parents to engage their daughters and sons in discussions on the larger issues of relationships, goals and aspirations. In South Africa, the national youth HIV-prevention programme, loveLife, believes that open, early and frank discussion of sexuality is key to reducing HIV infection in the country. The programme encourages parents to tell their children to delay sexual activity; to talk about the pressures to engage in sexual activity; to talk about the values of love, respect, dignity, and responsibility that should shape attitudes to relationships; to talk about protection and safety when sexually active; and to use available sources of information.
Reaching out to parents and families helps build community support for adolescent sexual and reproductive health, which remains a sensitive issue in most societies.