Foróige launches relationships and sexuality programme for young people which aims to delay sexual activity and reduce teen pregnancies

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Foróige September 26, 2014

REAL U is a comprehensive relationships and sexual health programme designed to delay the onset of early sexual activity and reduce teen pregnancy. Funding for the roll out of the programme nationally came from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme. This innovative new sex education programme delivered to more than 10,500 teenagers nationwide is ‘filling a gap’ in relationship and sexuality education for young people in Ireland, a new study has shown. The 12-month research into youth organisation Foróige’s Relationships Explored and Life Uncovered (REAL U) programme also found that young people’s attitudes to LGBT issues and knowledge about the facts of sex improved significantly as a result of taking part in the 12-week programme.

Foróige’s Dr. Susan Redmond says, “Young people are living in an increasingly sexualised world and teenagers need the tools to navigate through this world effectively.

“What this programme does is equip teenagers with the confidence and knowledge to cultivate healthy relationships, develop their confidence around expressing their thoughts and feelings, while also being aware of the risks that early sexual behaviour can have. It also allows for the subject of sex to be discussed in a frank and honest way which enables them to develop behaviours that nurture positive relationships in all aspects of their lives.

Body image, emotional well-being, healthy relationships, gender and sexuality, media messaging, pornography, contraception, unplanned pregnancy and STIs are just some of the topics addressed in the innovative programme.

The study into the REAL U programme, which was undertaken by the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre, NUI Galway over a 12 month period, was launched this morning at Pearse St Library in Dublin. Teenagers who took part in the programme said they were better informed and more aware of the consequences of their actions, with 98% of those evaluated rating the programme highly. Almost all of the teenagers evaluated said the programme should be widely available to young people to ensure they are informed and empowered to make the right decision for them.

To date, 440 facilitators have been trained in the programme, with more than 10,500 young people completing the programme nationwide.

Foróige also offers training on the programme to external agencies for free through funding from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme. To date, training has been provided to 43 different agencies including the Child and Family Agency Túlsa, Focus Ireland and Barnardos.

Although the legal age of consent in Ireland is 17 for boys and girls, almost one in four of 15-17 year olds in Ireland report having had sexual intercourse (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2012), while research indicates that most young people had some sexual experience in their teens (Crisis Pregnancy Programme, 2012). Those who had sex before the age of 17 were less likely to have used contraception at first intercourse than those who first had sex after the age of consent. The number of births to teenagers has declined from 3,087 in 2001 to 1,639 in 2012, which represents a 47% decrease (CPP, 2013). In 2011, there were 443 abortions to women aged under 20  giving Irish addresses in UK clinics (UKDoH).

The REAL U programme engages young people aged 12-18 years in developing and building positive relationships. The programme is set out in a comprehensive manual, designed for use by a trained facilitator leading a group of 10-15 participants aged between 12 and 18 years old. It is recommended that the programme be delivered over 12 weeks for one hour and 30 minutes every week, drawing on modules appropriate for younger and older age groups. Two days training in delivery of the REAL U programme is provided by Foróige staff for youth workers both within and outside of Foróige. Foróige received funding from the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme to fund the design, print and roll-out of the manual beyond the Foróige organisation over a three-year period.