Improving sexual and reproductive health education for school-based young women in South Africa

Many young women in South Africa lack the information and resources needed to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Current SRHR training in schools focuses on HIV, neglecting other SRHR concerns such as SRHR for HIV-positive individuals. We aimed to increase SRHR knowledge among young women attending public schools to improve SRHR decision making and behaviors and improve SRHR outcomes. We enhanced an existing curriculum developed by local NGO, LifeLine Johannesburg (LLJ), ensuring it included comprehensive SRHR information tailored to an HIV endemic setting, and supported LLJ staff to use it.

Project aims were to improve SRHR content in LLJ’s training, ensure acceptability of the new curriculum by training facilitators and peer educators, deliver accurate content through the peer educators, see positive improvements in young women’s SRHR knowledge and behavior by comparing pre- and post-training surveys, and get buy-in from the Department of Education to use the new curriculum as the official curriculum in schools for Life Skills Orientation classes.

Peer educators taught young women aged 15-17 in public schools in the Alexandra community in Johannesburg the enhanced curriculum. LLJ’s facilitators are trained as professional counselors and have several years of experience training and supporting peer educators and implementing training for young women. The curriculum was based on a proven behavior change theory.