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Around the world, Asia Catalyst and our grassroots partners are adjusting to new political realities and legal challenges, and taking creative steps to ensure that civil society groups are not undermined. As we celebrate Chinese New Year and embark on the Year of the Rooster, we are working around the clock to ensure a seamless flow of support to our partners on the ground.
Below are some of our recent accomplishments.
- In China, we worked closely with local groups to organize “town hall” consultations with diverse transgender groups and individuals from around the country. This process feeds into the development of a unique training curriculum, based on lived experience, to build leadership and increase advocacy capacity on trans rights issues.
- In Bangkok, we brought together 13 graduates of our CBO Catalyst in-depth training cohort to an Action Assembly to promote coalition building and strengthen human rights advocacy capacity. Seventy-seven community advocates participated on our bi-monthly call on sexuality education. See a summary of that webinar, below.
- We also convened Chinese sex worker advocates, lawyers, scholars, and media activists together with their Vietnamese counterparts, to explore strategies for ending compulsory detention and repressive police practices, including the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution.
- AC staff also had the privilege of working with a broad range of Thai human rights activists to facilitate network strengthening and advocacy strategizing across sectors in the face of mounting crackdowns against rights defenders.
For every threat to civil society and human rights, we also observe tenacious pushback by extraordinary individuals and communities whom, when under siege, find yet another way to overcome.
It is in this spirit that we enter 2017 and the Year of the Rooster. We look forward to working with you toward the betterment of our global society!
P.S. Please make a gift to Asia Catalyst in honor of Chinese New Year today!
Spotlight on Sexuality Education in China
High-quality, comprehensive sexuality education is an indispensable part of eliminating health disparities and realizing reproductive health for all. However, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “far too few young people are receiving adequate preparation which leaves them vulnerable to coercion, abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.” 
Sexuality education is among the core activities implemented by many community- based organizations (CBOs) in China working on issues such as HIV/AIDS and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. In response to the immense interest in these issues among grassroots groups, and the popularity of a recent CNN article, which focused on the question of whether ‘China’s lack of sex education is putting millions of young people at risk?’ Asia Catalyst hosted a webinar on the topic. Li Hongyan, National Programme Officer at the UNESCO office in Beijing, was the guest speaker. She introduced UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education and led a discussion on sexuality education in China. This webinar is a part of a series coordinated by Asia Catalyst with our Chinese CBO partners. It is a forum for information-sharing, mutual learning, and potential collaboration on joint advocacy issues.
During the webinar, Li Hongyan fielded numerous questions from the 77 participants and solicited feedback on the Guidance. By the end of the webinar, participants had gained an in-depth understanding of the Guidance and tips for how to utilize it in their work.  UNESCO. “International technical guidance on sexuality education.” An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators (2009).
Highlights from the Q&A session:
Participant: From a peer educator’s perspective, apart from the content and methodologies of sexuality education, raising rights awareness among youth is equally significant in ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing. What is your take on this?
Li: I agree that youth should have rights awareness. This is the basis to establish positive social relationships and ensure healthy development. The question here is how to strategically incorporate rights awareness education in sexuality education. In China, it is difficult to gain support from the mainstream education system by using a direct approach. In fact, a more successful approach would be for rights education to be entrenched in teaching methodologies. Therefore, trainings for teachers, peer educators and civil society, which is dedicated to promoting comprehensive sexuality education, are critical.
Participant: Nowadays, more and more parents want to communicate with their children on issues around sex and sexuality, but don’t know how. Do you have any suggestions?
Li: Many parents have started to realize the importance of sexuality education, but their understanding about sexuality is limited and sometimes inaccurate, and they lack confidence and effective methods in talking with their children about sexuality. For example, not many are familiar with gender issues or may prioritize discipline over self-expression and discovery.
Therefore, when we are educating parents on the essential knowledge related to sexuality, we should also build their confidence, equip them with effective communication skills, and cultivate a rights-based perspective that parents can use to frame a number of issues their children face, especially during adolescence. Peer education among parents is an effective method. NGOs can play an active role in facilitating learning among parents on how to communicate with their kids regarding sexuality and gender. This kind of support for parents eventually benefits children and adolescents, by filling the gaps or supplement what schools offer them.