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IPPF/BMZ PROJECT: EDUCATING YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH RIGHTS IN MALAYSIA: SUMMARY REPORT ON NATIONAL ADVOCACY SEMINAR, 23-24 MARCH 2003, ALOR SETAR, KEDAH

The Federation of Family Planning Associations, Malaysia (FFPAM) has since the late 1970s initiated the Family Life Education (FLE) Programme for young people focusing on the provision of information and education aimed primarily on awareness creation. From the mid 1980s and onwards, FFPAM incorporated living skills into its FLE programmes to enable young people to effectively apply the skills they have acquired to their everyday life particularly in areas related to their sexual and reproductive health.

Building upon its FLE Curriculum which was developed in the 1985, FFPAM launched its Reproductive Health of Adolescents Module (RHAM) in 2002, one of the main activities of UNFPA Project MAL/98/P02: Promoting Adolescent Reproductive Health and Healthy Living. The Bahasa Malaysia version is available since April 2002. Meanwhile, with both financial and technical support from IPPF-ESEAOR. Youth Clinics were established and or upgraded in State FPAs of Negeri Sembilan and Sarawak. Youth-friendly services were incorporated into the youth clinics. Such youth-friendly services are now a common feature in the youth centres and youth clinics of many FPAs.

There is also a felt need to extend SRH information and services specially to the Muslim youths. Young people aged between 15 to 24 years make up approximately 3.68 million or 29% of the Muslim population in Malaysia. In view of the significant number of young Muslims in the country and the fact that most adolescents do not receive the proper education, information, counseling and support during the ages when their bodily changes affect their behavior, attitude, personality and lifestyle (National Survey on Reproductive Health of Adolescent, 1997), it is extremely crucial that young Muslims are educated and empowered to make informed decisions about their personal health and relationships. However cultural, religious and social norms have often hindered direct and open communications on sexual and reproductive health and rights in an enabling environment where young people can receive not only knowledge but life skills on responsible living.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Project on “Educating Young People About Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Malaysia” with funding from BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), is an important step towards the empowerment of young people in responsible decision-making related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. FFPAM is undertaking this new challenge with Kedah FPA located in one of the 5 states in the country with predominantly Muslim population, as the implementing partner. The State FPA of Perlis in the smallest state, also with predominantly Muslim population, also participated in this project.

The National Advocacy Seminar is one of the core activities of this Project where the outcome of the seminar will serve as an important advocacy tool and in providing effective strategies for the development of intervention activities for young people with specific reference to their sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of the Islamic values.

The outcome of the National Advocacy Seminar was actually in the form of a Programme of Action on Strategies and Activities related to Advocacy, Youth-friendly SRH services and IEC materials with Islamic values, respectively. These three thematic issues were deliberated through a workshop with a broad-based theme on SRH and Rights of Muslim Youth.

Group 1 identified the SRH rights which included the right to information on SRH with Islamic values, the right to stand firm and the right to be heard by parents and educators. Rights, according to the Group members, come with responsibilities. The Group believed that the SRH rights need to be further promoted through various means – print and electronic media; awareness creation seminars for youths, teachers, families and other community members; talks and dialogue sessions at the mosque in every residential area including establishment of Youth Club and via regular meetings between parents and teachers.

Group 2 which comprised mainly the young participants developed an action plan of what are the features of a Youth-friendly Centre, the type of activities and services they would expect and how they, the young people, can be involved and participate at the Youth Centres. They had also identified the Islamic values on SRH that required emphasis.

Group 3 reviewed the existing IEC materials produced by FFPAM on SRH for young people and identified materials and content areas where modifications need to be made to reflect the Islamic values. These materials included the Reproductive Health of Adolescents Module (RHAM) which is a training tool that provides both information and life skills on SRH to enable youth people to make responsible decisions. Other materials included booklets such as “Best Years of Your Life”, posters and leaflets. New materials were also identified.

Dr Kamaruzaman Ali, Chairman FFPAM in his concluding address at the Seminar remarked that this Seminar, probably the first of its kind involving a wide spectrum of participants ranging from policy-makers, religious and community leaders to service providers and youth, marked an important milestone in the history of FFPAM and Kedah FPA where SRH rights for Muslim youth was enthusiastically expounded. All participants reaffirmed the need for the provision of appropriate information and services on SRH through a supportive system involving religious authorities, parents, teachers, young people and other community partners. Their feedback are recommendations will provide the framework in the design and implementation of SRH education and services for the Muslim Youths.



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