WHO and HRP Leader in Global Adolescent Health Receives Prestigious Award from Rotary International

Adolescents and youth worldwide encounter a range of challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health. While many countries have made significant progress, persistent inequities remain a barrier to ensuring optimal sexual and reproductive health outcomes for all.

Extensive research conducted by HRP has demonstrated the positive impact of comprehensive sexuality education on sexual and reproductive health outcomes for young people. In collaboration with UNESCO and other UN partners, two crucial guidance documents have been published: International technical guidance on sexuality education. An evidence-informed approach and International Technical and Programmatic Guidance on Out-of-School Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). Condensed edition. These resources aim to guide countries, regardless of their available resources, in implementing high quality comprehensive sexuality education, both within and outside of school settings.

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Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli – a scientist in WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and HRP (the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction) – has dedicated over 30 years to researching and advocating for investment and action in the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young people. One area he is especially passionate about is comprehensive sexuality education.

In recognition of his exceptional contributions, Dr Chandra-Mouli has been honored with the 2022-2023 Nafis Sadik Award from the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health for his outstanding leadership, scholarship and service in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

John Townsend, Chair of the Rotary Action Group, presented the award stating, “The award has the approval of our entire reproductive, maternal and child health Board of Directors and the support of our membership. Dr Chandra-Mouli has contributed significantly to building the epidemiological and evidence base for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and to helping countries translate evidence into action through well-designed and well-managed policies and programs for all young people.”

Recipients of the Nafis Sadik award are selected based on their outstanding achievements in advancing the legacy of the late Nafis Sadik, a prominent obstetrician-gynaecologist from Pakistan. In 1987, she became the first woman to head a major UN agency, UNFPA. As Secretary-General during the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, Sadik’s visionary plan of action laid the groundwork for the development of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Dr Chandra-Mouli recently received the award at a special Rotary International event in Australia, which focused on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. The event was powered by PMNCH, the world’s largest alliance for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being, as one of the multiple national events part of the 1.8 Billion Young People for Change campaign (https://www.1point8b.org) happening across the globe, which advocates for increased investment in adolescent health and well-being.

The Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health has about 12,000 members and collaborates with Rotary Clubs in all regions of the globe, UN partners such as PMNCH and UNFPA, and international donors. Key areas of work include the Rotary sponsored Program of Scale, “Together for Healthy Families in Nigeria” focusing on critical MCH services at the community level; the Big Pink Dialogues focusing on advocacy for youth health and development; and the Technical Network Alliance, which aims to bring together clubs and districts with organizations and individuals with expertise on scaling up maternal, newborn and child health programs to be sustainable and impactful.

Expressing his gratitude for the award, Dr Chandra-Mouli commented, “I am honoured to receive this award just as the world prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action next year. The Award will help shine a light on the enormous progress that the world has made in improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents over the last thirty years, as well as the enormous amount of work that remains to be done.”

Dr Chandra-Mouli further emphasized: “For years, we have denied that adolescents are sexual beings. We have avoided discussions about sexuality because of our discomfort. We have hidden behind false arguments that sexuality education harms children and adolescents. Shying away from sexuality education disempowers our children and adolescents. It prevents them from knowing what they need to know. It prevents them from making well-informed and well-considered choices and following through on them. And it prevents them from reaching out for help when they need to.”

He concluded, “We are at a crossroads. More than ever before children and adolescents are being prevented from getting the information and education they need on the one hand, and bombarded with misinformation on the other. We can continue to deny, ignore, hide, and shy away. Or we can choose to take individual and collective responsibility to change the situation. Today.”

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