Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Interview Series – Interview 1 “Provide Comprehensive Health Education to More University Students” Emiko Takeishi (Professor, Faculty of Lifelong Learning and Career Studies, Hosei University)
At Youth Terrace
, the reproductive health and rights platform operated by the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) Women’s Health Project, our goal is to support the well-being of every young person over diverse life courses by creating social systems for providing accurate knowledge on reproductive health and rights as well as consultation opportunities to discuss and solve problems.
As one effort in this initiative, we have been conducting interviews with past attendees of our Comprehensive Health Education Program
(which has been offered since FY2019), users of Youth Terrace, and people involved with Youth Terrace operations. Moving forward, we will publish these interviews on an ongoing basis.
For our first installment, we interviewed Professor Emiko Takeishi of Hosei University’s Faculty of Lifelong Learning and Career Studies. Starting in FY2019, Professor Takeishi has kindly allowed us to provide our Comprehensive Health Education Program during courses at Hosei University.
1. The Current Situation and Issues for Reproductive Health and Rights for University Students
There is high interest among students
Takeishi: Last year and the year before that, you provided the Comprehensive Health Education Program as part of my “Life Course Theory” class, and because the program followed lectures on marriage and childbirth, it seems the students were able to complete the program without discomfort. Afterwards, we received comments like, “I had never heard this before,” or, “I’m glad I was able to learn about this.” I think these comments show that students were very interested.
Students need consultation opportunities to discuss their troubles and receive information and knowledge
In everyday life, I think students have concerns or worries regarding sex and there is information they should know in advance. However, generally speaking, university staff members only have opportunities to connect with students in the classroom, so they cannot talk to adult students about sex. Therefore, I think it is extremely important for university students to have places they can go to consult someone about their troubles and acquire information and knowledge. It is clear to me how difficult it is for teaching staff at universities to get involved with these issues directly.
The potential of incorporating Comprehensive Health Education into physical education
At Hosei University, physical education classes are compulsory and students take them in their earlier years. Because there is affinity among academic fields, I think it would be effective to offer a credit of Comprehensive Health Education during physical education courses. If that happens, it will become possible for all students to acquire that information soon after they begin attending our school. However, there are few female instructors in physical education, so it is significant to have someone from outside the university provide the Comprehensive Health Education Program.
2. Firsthand experiences from Comprehensive Health Education Program attendees
The content resonates with both male and female students
Looking at the results of the survey we took after the lectures, many students gave comments like, “I wish someone had told me this sooner,” or “I want other students to hear this, too.” We can see that the program provided the students with information they did not know.
The male students gave comments that showed they were able to view the issues facing women as their own, with comments like “I did not know that women had to face so many difficulties,” or “I have to think more about the other person.” I felt the program content resonated with the students.
While chatting about the Comprehensive Health Education Program to one of the other professors, they said they would love for the program to be provided in their freshman classes. To no surprise, it seems students who took the program gave it high marks. I think that is a sign they were able to perceive the topics discussed as topics that closely affect them.
Imamura (HGPI): I do, too. I remember being so happy reading some of the comments that the students gave us, like, “I am glad I was able to hear this information while I am a university student,” “I realized the importance of finding a regular ob-gyn,” “I thought it was important information to know to avoid making decisions I’d later regret,” “I’m grateful to my parents,” or “I want to have correct knowledge and think seriously about my future life plans.”
The effects of providing accurate information through outside specialists
Takeishi: I can’t talk about topics related to sex or reproductive health and rights myself because they are outside of my field of expertise, so I am so grateful to have guest lecturers. The guest lecturers were able to share accurate information while introducing various situations, like what to do if you get pregnant. If I could not ask a specialist to give the talk, in terms of accuracy, I would be uncertain about teaching such subjects on my own.
Imamura (HGPI): During middle and high school sex education, learning from the same physical education teacher as always can be embarrassing for students. By bringing in guest lecturers to teach the classes, the students can listen without a sense of resistance. We often receive comments like that. From this perspective, as well, we would like for everyone to continue providing Comprehensive Health Education using midwives and other specialists.
Takeishi: I hear that many universities are now adopting the program. It also seems that conducting it online provides the benefit that attendees can easily submit questions to the lecturer directly using chats features.
Imamura (HGPI): In the future, we would like to expand the program to universities nationwide by also providing it online. I feel the high degree of interest among university students reaffirms how significant it is to provide Comprehensive Health Education to people around that age.
Affinity with career design courses
Takeishi: Currently, many universities are not only offering employment support, they are also providing courses on career design across academic fields. I think the content of Comprehensive Health Education has a high degree of affinity with courses like that, as well.
Hosei University requires freshmen to complete a career support course called “Introduction to Career Design.” The goal of that course is to encourage students to examine topics like how to spend their time at university, the meaning of working in society, gender, marriage, family, and connections with society, as well as to foster proactive attitudes regarding such topics. We often invite guest lecturers, and the course was attended by over 2,000 students this year.
3. Future expectations toward the reproductive health and rights platform, Youth Terrace
Broadly informing young people of its existence will be key
I have high expectations for Youth Terrace to centralize and disseminate information regarding reproductive health and rights. However, if nobody accesses the site, there is no point, so it will be important to build broad recognition toward the existence of the platform among young people.
Collaborating with municipalities
As an example, take Chiyoda City’s Gender Equality Center MIW
, which offers counseling services for domestic violence (DV) and dating violence, which are types of violence committed by a spouse or partner. Students appear to be very interested in dating violence, contraception, and sexual consent, so collaborating with local governments engaging in programs for such topics should be effective. The Comprehensive Health Education Program for University Students is an important initiative, so I hope agencies like the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) take notice.
Receiving support from university students serving as youth ambassadors
In the end, my greatest hope is for students to recognize reproductive health and rights as an issue that affects them and for that recognition to expand naturally.
Imamura (HGPI): Yes, that is why Youth Terrace is currently looking for university students who want to become Youth Ambassadors. We plan to request their support for Youth Cafes and to build publicity by sharing their opinions from a peer's perspective. We believe information will reach young people more easily if it is communicated by someone near to them in age.
Takeishi: Right now, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are making horizontal connections among students grow thin. It is my hope it develops into a system that involves various people and institutions to ensure information on reproductive health and rights reaches each student.