Sexual and reproductive health awareness programmes are often still viewed as a privilege in many parts of the world. On Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day this year, as we look to move forward and empower all people with the right knowledge, equality takes center stage.
When we look at our goals for the near future, we see that equity lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with ‘Leave No One Behind’ remaining its central promise. The various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) propose the same, with SDG 3 focusing on healthy lives for everyone at all ages, thus positioning equity as a central issue in health. Health equity plays a large role in reducing inequalities within and between countries, to promote the inclusion and empowerment of all. This further highlights the role of public health in reaching quality healthcare to even disadvantaged or marginalized communities.
In this manner, inclusive sexual and reproductive health awareness programmes have the potential to improve the lives of many, and not just those with access to the right services and resources. Education about various illnesses and awareness about prevention methods plays a crucial role in healthcare and is as important an element of healthcare as treatment is. Spanning a variety of topics, from contraceptive methods to safe sex practices and knowledge about sexual and reproductive wellness at different stages in life, it is important that this information is targeted at groups based on their gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation and exposure to health risks.
Addressing the lack of sexual and reproductive health awareness with inclusive programmes has the potential to improve public health globally, by:
1. Reducing health disparity among communities
Financial constraints while seeking treatment and the presence of an illness can also further lead to economic and social inequalities.
2. Disseminating important knowledge
Having the right knowledge can help maintain healthier lifestyles and inclusive awareness strategies can ensure that the right information reaches those that are often marginalized because of factors such as their gender identity and sexual orientation. It is essential that this communication specifically focuses on at-risk communities as they are likely to be more reluctant to seek medical advice and intervention, because of the marginalization they have experienced.
3. Creating safer environments for communities
It is important that this awareness also influences social and cultural norms, for sustained change where equity is upheld regardless of gender, gender identity, sexuality, income, age, ability and more. Awareness can enable such accepting environments, for there to be lesser fear of stigma or embarrassment related to sexual and reproductive needs.
Going beyond how inclusive awareness can serve various communities simultaneously, sexual and reproductive health awareness stands for the empowerment of all people – for them to understand their own bodies and therefore make better, more informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.