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Different lived experiences, yet similar CSE experiences

The Gambia and Canada

Natasha Harris-Harb Youth Engagement Adviser, UNGEI & Salimatou Fatty Salimatou Foundation
  • 17 Feb 2020
  • 4 min

Salimatou and Natasha here. We are in our early twenties and both education and gender equality activists. We’ve had different life experiences and different education experiences, one in the Gambia and one in Canada, yet we were both failed when it came to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in school. We’ve worked together for the past five years in global education advocacy, yet have never met in person. We’ve relied on the digital space to connect us. This week we will finally meet at a symposium exploring sexuality education in digital spaces: Switched On (hosted by UNESCO and UNFPA).

Sisters in solidarity Natasha Harrris Harb Salimatou Fatty

Salimatou here. I am in my mid-twenties and Google and YouTube have served as my best friends for knowledge about sex education and relationships. At the schools I attended I was unable to gain more knowledge in these two critical areas. I always feel sceptical whenever I am searching for information about sex and relationships online because I don’t want my identity to come out. Yet this is my most reliable source for information. The interesting thing is that I have many younger siblings and they would rather go to the internet than ask me!

My organisation runs a teen girl mentorship programme and my attendance at this symposium will strengthen my knowledge of how sexuality education is being delivered in the digital space to share with our participants.

Hey! This is Natasha. I’m twenty-three years old, and I’ve gotten most of my knowledge on sex and relationships from the online space. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in my school failed me and, although I did learn many things from my friends and mom growing up, Google was always my go-to. I have found trusted websites and Instagram accounts. Many of these platforms are created by and for young people. It is refreshing to be able to find intersectional feminist sources that are both sex positive and filled with informative content. How do I check my sources? Ask two closest friends who live across the ocean via WhatsApp!

So, as you can see, I truly do rely on the digital space. I have a deep interest in learning about how young people access these spaces differently across the world and how they can influence these spaces.

Switched On UNESCO digital sexuality conference

Our engagement at the conference:

We are very excited to participate in the Switched On symposium and to have the opportunity to meet and learn from developers, users and experts in these digital spaces. We will be co-chairing a session entitled ‘Putting young people at the centre — developing their own spaces in their own way’. Our session will focus on the power of young people to influence these spaces. Together we will make lots of connections, share, learn, and amplify these learnings through our networks. We look forward to contributing to the dialogue regarding next steps and future horizons in this space.