Fellow Since 1999
This profile was prepared when Afsan Chowdhury was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Afsan Chowdhury is taking a new approach to sex education in Bangladesh by involving those who are traditionally viewed as hostile to addressing such issues - parents and social and religious leaders. He employs them as the vehicles through which to reach the country's youth, the population that will benefit most from such knowledge in the long run. By drawing on a various segments of Bangladeshi society, and not merely focusing on groups that are at high-risk for sexually related problems, he is taking the initial steps toward creating a more conducive environment for sex education.Chowdhury begins with the premise that the family and society are the primary sources of information and values for children, and without their participation, initiatives to educate maturing youths are doomed to have little impact or fail. Moreover, he believes that family elders and social and religious leaders will actually become proponents of sex education for youth once they understand both its benefits and the consequences of its absence. Their support will remove the taboo on discussing sexuality, reduce the conflicts between sex education and traditional values and indeed, make it a part of family values. A critical component of Chowdhury's work is the development of culturally sensitive and reliable communication materials for sex education and the use of modern communication tools and practitioner networks to disseminate the information. The production of materials that can reach such a large audience will be an important factor in making a sustainable impact in the field. Afsan also works to create awareness among key government agencies of the need for sex education. He aims to build the capacity of Bangladesh's large community of nongovernmental organizations to incorporate sex education materials into their educational programs.