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From youth ministry to sexuality education

Planning, organising and taking part in Methodist Youth Conference 2005 in January was the most rewarding experience Fuailelagi Samoa Saleupolu had in her five years as Tauiwi Resource Person Youth. The day after the conference Fuailelagi attended a formal welcome as she began her journey in a new role, working as an educator for the Family Planning Association (FPA).

FPA is a national non-government organisation that specialises in sexual and reproductive health. The organisation started during the Depression years out of a concern for limited access to information about birth control. More than 60 years later, FPA now offers clinical and educational services throughout the Aotearoa, and is actively involved in research, training, advocacy, and policy advice to government.

“As an educator, my primary role is the delivery of sexuality education mostly in secondary schools throughout the wider Auckland region. There is certainly a mixture of opinions regarding sexuality education for young people. ‘Sexuality’ education as opposed to ‘sex’ education is about a holistic approach to the health and well-being of individuals.

“Sexuality is about identity; it’s about who we are as people. FPA defines sexuality as ‘the expression and awareness of ourselves socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually and politically through life’. This is a fundamental aspect of the approach to teaching sexuality education.

“Sexuality is a unique and wonderful part of each person’s identity that begins from the moment we are born; and each person also has the right to express his or her sexuality openly and free of any form of discrimination,” Fuailelagi says.

Another part of the educator role is health promotion, which is about raising a community awareness of sexuality and health issues. This involves information stands at public events to provide information and advocate for issues around sexual and reproductive health.

An example of the health promotion Fuailelagi has been involved in has been to support the recent Ministry of Health campaign.

“By now I am sure many would be familiar the ‘No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba’ catchphrase from the television and radio advertisements, or from visual posters in bus stops, magazines, and other media publications. The nationwide campaign created a stir and has received criticism from various groups and individuals across the country.

“However, a range of individuals – young people, parents, health professionals, and teachers – have supported the campaign. Some of the key messages behind the ‘No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba’ campaign include the fact that trates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) particularly Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are higher than ever before.

Young people aged 15 to 19 years are affected the most by these infections, and the correct use of condoms will protect against STIs. The campaign promotes these messages through a website, stands at events, and printed resources such as booklets providing information for both young people and also for parents about how to talk to their young people about sexuality issues (available in the English, Tongan, Samoan, Niuean, and Cook Island Maori languages).

Fuailelagi says after two months of working for the FPA she feels she has entered a crucial role. She knows there will be challenges ahead but it’s about encouraging people to look after their bodies, by providing accurate information to individuals and empowering them to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

More information can be found at websites www.fpanz.org.nz; www.theword.org.nz; www.moh.govt.nz/sexualhealth; and www.hubba.co.nz.