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Ponton Group of Sex Educators

The Challenge

The Catholic church wields huge influence in Poland where sex and sexuality are taboo subjects. Sexual education is delivered by priests or teachers in lessons called “Preparation for Family Life” which are fraught with gender stereotypes and homophobic messages. According to a Polish government report, a third of those teaching ‘Preparation for Family Life’ do not have the proper qualifications.

The result is very poor sexual education in schools. Young people have reported being taught incorrect information, others said teachers spent lessons discussing their own views on sex rather than providing facts. Some teachers have ignored the issue altogether. Some schools hand over these classes to company representatives who spend lesson time promoting products such as sanitary pads and offer vague information on puberty in all-girl classes.

Books approved by the Ministry of Education contain information on contraception that is contrary to scientific facts.  Children and adolescents are left with many unanswered questions. This can lead to unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. According to UN data, nine percent of 20-year-old women in Poland had a child in their teens. With sexual and reproductive health and rights so poorly addressed in the country, non-governmental organisations have had to step in to fill the gap.

The Response

Ponton Group of Sex Educators was founded by a group of young activists in Poland in 2001 to help empower young people to embrace adolescence and adulthood with confidence by improving their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights through education and advocacy. 

Ponton, which means life raft in Polish, works with youth aged 13-19, with a particular focus on adolescent girls. The organisation, affiliated with the Federation for Women and Family Planning, provides comprehensive sexuality education for teens as well as online and phone counselling services.

It also organises awareness and advocacy campaigns on sexuality education, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted and teen pregnancies. Ponton advocates on a national and regional level in order to include comprehensive sexuality and relationship education into the mandatory school curriculum.

Ponton runs extensive research projects on the state of sexual education in the country. These studies help reinforce and deliver advocacy messages and educate the community on good standards of gynaecological care, especially for young women, LGBTQ women and women with disabilities.

Ponton is a girl-centred organisation that works on highly controversial topics in Poland. Its programmes are relevant to the context in which it operates, and to date, it has impacted over 5,000 people.