(SKNIS): Teen parents and at-risk youth will increase their knowledge of sexual health and reproduction and receive gender sensitization training at a two-week workshop taking place at the Advanced Vocational Education Centre (AVEC) from yesterday, July 11, 2016.

Shinnel Charles, Gender Officer responsible for Project Viola, in the Department of Gender Affairs, said that the component of the workshop that pertains to teen parents will educate while addressing gender issues within the Federation.

“Specifically, the Project Viola Capacity Building Programme will support teen parents to acquire skills that will provide their educational and professional potential and enrich their social lives,” Mrs. Charles said. “Project Viola is a long-running programme within the Department of Gender Affairs following a Cabinet policy decision in 1997 on the rights of adolescent mothers to continue their public education.”

Project Viola was launched in 2002 to centralize support for teen mothers and assist with their personal and career development. To date, over 150 adolescents have participated in Project Viola, with many former participants going on to successfully complete higher education. There are currently 17 teen mothers enrolled in the programme.

The gender sensitization aspects of the training will educate participants on critical aspects of the idea of gender, such as the roles of males and females, stereotypes pertaining to males and females and how society moulds males and females to fit into certain expected roles.

“Through the multi-media campaign, this programme will engage in public education to address gender issues such as gender equality and gender equity,” Danielle La Place, executive officer in the Department of Gender Affairs said, noting that training will extend to various segments of society inclusive of teachers and counsellors. “Training is also provided to the public sector gender focal points to improve gender mainstreaming with government ministries, departments and agencies.” The focal points will be representatives from various ministries/departments who will ensure that gender issues are considered during all areas of public sector work.

As a means of encouragement, Director of Gender Affairs Celia Christopher read the “Message for World Population Day 2016,” delivered by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, who is Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Dr. Osotimehin’s message, which directly addresses the rights of teenage girls, is enclosed in the following link: http://asiapacific.unfpa.org/news/message-world-population-day-2016.

“We expect to have a very high level of participation, we expect to have a high level of discipline and I hope what you would have learnt here, at the end of the time that you have spent here, that you will be able to use it in your personal and professional lives,” Mrs. Christopher said.