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A set of Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) digital materials were launched in Jamaica in mid May to further address Gender Based Violence. Over 220 participants from across the sub-region attended the event virtually. 

The materials included short stories and comics that follow young characters Ping Ping, Shane, Tanya and their families through their daily lives, as they face interpersonal and socioeconomic challenges.  It featured guiding questions and notes, as well as exercises and quizzes to invite students’ active participation. Teachers were urged to use the guiding questions to deepen their students’ understanding of GBV related issues such as gender inequality, gender stereotyping and discrimination, intimate partner violence, cyberbullying and transactional sex. 

The HFLE materials were produced under the Spotlight Initiative (SI), a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. UNFPA Caribbean collaborated with civil society organisation (CSO) partner, WMW Jamaica on the initiative. The aim was to “Support the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) and civil society organisations (CSOs) to scale up and sustain the implementation of the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum with a stronger focus on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) for children and young people in and out school”. 

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spotlight Initiative has proven to be particularly vital. Anecdotal reports suggest that the impact of the COVID-19 has contributed to an increase in GBV cases in communities. The evidence also suggests that the longer hours that students spend online exposes them to sexual and other risks including pornography, sexual grooming, sexting, trafficking and cyber-bullying. There have also been reports that the attendant school closures may have resulted in an increase in the out of school population. The risk of young people being out of school may be further compounded by online teaching modalities that require access to electricity and Internet services, and devices. 

The implementation of this initiative is therefore critical.  HFLE teachers who had been trained in GBV/VAWG by WMW Jamaica participated in the design of these innovative materials. Emphasis was placed on practical strategies for application in school and out of school settings to prevent and respond to GBV/VAWG, whether occurring in the classroom, out of school, or in the home.  The aim of the digital HFLE materials is to assist HFLE teachers in and out of school to not only help young people to attain knowledge about GBV/VAWG but also to cultivate positive attitudes and helpful skills that enable gender-equitable norms, healthy development, and self-empowerment.