I attended Youth Work Ireland’s Positive Sexual Health Conference recently and acted as the rapporteur for the day. This basically meant that I attended the conference, listened to the speakers, dropped into workshops and talked to attendees about their thoughts and opinions on the subject. Then at the end of the conference, I got up on the stage and summed up the main things that I took from the event.
Inclusive sex education
Among the amazing speakers that attended the event was Riyadh Khalaf, blogger, broadcaster and author, whose YouTube channel currently has over 376, 000 subscribers. Riyadh spoke about his experiences (or lack thereof) of inclusive sexual education in school. As a gay man, he never felt that being gay was normal, or accepted in school as nobody every spoke about it, which in turn created a feeling of shame around being LGBTI+. He has since shaken off that shame and stigma, and is now committed to pushing for inclusive education so that other LGBTI+ people can receive the education that he never did.
A discussion panel took place, which included Daniel Airey, disability activist and star of First Dates Ireland. His words and views were truly inspirational. He spoke about the fact that although he did receive sex education, there was nothing included in that education about sex and people with disabilities. He wants to highlight the need for more awareness around the fact that people with disabilities can have sex, and the education that young people receive needs to reflect this by being more inclusive.
The second part of the day consisted of different workshops that the young people and youth workers could attend. These covered topics such as consent, pornography, healthy relationships and self-esteem. These were delivered in a relaxed, friendly and open manner, where no young person was pressured to speak any more or less than they were comfortable with, and each view and opinion were valued.
Reflecting on the event
From attending the workshops and speaking to various young people throughout the day, there were three key points that I took from the conference, which I presented to the attendees at the end of the day. The first was how truly ‘youth-centred’ the whole event was, beginning right from the decision of tackling this issue, to the Sex Talk team consisting of young people, the MCs who were all young people, and the decision to have myself, a young person, as the rapporteur for the event. The whole foundation of a youth centred conference was reflected in the comments I received from the young participants, many of whom mentioned how relaxed and open the atmosphere was, and how valued they felt their opinions and views to be.
More inclusive curriculum
The second key point that I took away, and that really was the common thought among all the attendees of the day, was the need for inclusive sexual education. This was a common theme in all of the conversations I had with young people and youth workers; an inclusive sexual education is needed and is a benefit for all young people, not just people who have a disability, identify as LGBTI+, or part of any other group that has previously been excluded from the curriculum.
Passionate young people
The third and final key point, that was truly amazing to see, was the passion of all the young people involved in the conference. Each and every young person there was truly passionate about the subject of inclusive and accessible sexual education. They are all willing and determined to keep fighting for this idea to become a reality, and these are the people that we can look forward to seeing doing great things in the future.