2nd Dec 2019 in Community

The Cathedral Quarter-based Youth Forum says greater emphasis needs to be placed on Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) for young people.

The Belfast City Council-sponsored group made the statement in its latest report.

The Waring Street-based Youth Forum was joined by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane and the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY), Koulla Yiasouma, to launch its Any Use? report in City Hall as part of UN World Children’s Day celebrations.

Outlining its key findings following an extensive period of consultation and the completion of a dedicated survey focussed on RSE in schools, the Youth Forum found that half of young people across Belfast think their right to Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is currently not being met.

The report also found that nearly 34% of those who completed the survey had never received an RSE lesson in school and only 10% of young people who did receive RSE in school said the information they received was ‘very useful’.

Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane commended the work of the Youth Forum and encouraged them to continue their great work in being the voice of young people across the city.

He said: “We are lucky to have such an enthusiastic and hardworking Youth Forum tackling the major issues facing our young people across the city.

“The Youth Forum continue to challenge the status quo and have shown great leadership in publishing their most recent report on Relationship and Sexuality Education. It’s important that we seriously consider the findings within their Any Use? report and take action to improve the quality of information and access our young people have to Relationship and Sexuality Education.”

Their research was carried out in partnership with Common Youth and the Queen’s University Belfast Centre for Children’s Rights.

Dr Michelle Templeton of Queen’s University Belfast Centre for Children’s Rights said: “This project is a great example of how young people can mobilise and use their collective voices to campaign for change and push RSE to the top of the agenda.

“The Belfast Youth Forum have spent a lot of time and effort gathering evidence from their peers about the usefulness of current RSE practice. They have identified many gaps but also have solutions as to how we can make RSE more effective and more relevant to the actual lived experiences. But they need policy makers to hear their voices and include them in shaping RSE reform.

“They know what they need, and can help us create interventions that are more useful, comprehensive and inclusive, which will have far-reaching benefits for society at large. Not only by increasing positive sexual health outcomes, but by developing their understandings around sexuality, sexual behaviours and gender equality and parenting, that can lead to a reduction in sexual crimes and domestic violence too. That’s what good quality RSE is all about.”

CEO of Common Youth Arlene McLaren said: “Common Youth is privileged to work with the Belfast Youth Forum, an inspiring and dedicated group of young people who are committed to effecting change in relation to Relationships and Sexuality in schools.”

Youth Forum member, Conor Fay said: “Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is such an important issue for young people. The Belfast Youth Forum think we should have more of a say in what our Relationship and Sexuality Education looks like and how it is taught to us.

“Our Any Use? report can really help decision makers and policy makers improve RSE and make it more relevant to young people’s lives.”

Youth Forum members are calling on change to be affected immediately by adopting a rights-based proactive approach to RSE. They would like to see young people involved in co-producing an RSE curriculum that would be taught by specialised, qualified and trained staff.

To find out more about the Belfast Youth Forum and its Any Use? report, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/youthforum.

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