Prioritising sexuality education in Mississippi and Nigeria: The importance of local actors, policy windows and creative strategy

Rachel Sullivan Robinson, Michael Kunnuji, Yusra Ribhi Shawar, Jeremy Shiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Mississippi and Nigeria are two socially conservative places unlikely to prioritise sexuality education. Nonetheless, Mississippi passed a bill in 2011 mandating all school districts to offer sexuality education, and Nigeria approved a national sexuality education curriculum in 2001. To identify the factors that drove the process of prioritisation of sexuality education in each context, we conducted more than 70 semi-structured interviews with nongovernmental organisations/nonprofits, donor organisations and federal and state ministries involved in the prioritisation and implementation of sexuality education in Mississippi and Nigeria. Prioritisation of sexuality education occurred for similar reasons in both Mississippi and Nigeria: (1) local individuals and organisations committed to sexuality education and supported by external actors; (2) the opening of a policy window that made sexuality education a solution to a pressing social problem (teen pregnancy in Mississippi and HIV/AIDS in Nigeria) and (3) strategic action on the part of proponents. We conclude that promoting sexuality education in challenging contexts requires fostering committed local individuals and organisations, identifying external resources to support implementation costs and building on existing relationships of trust between actors, even if those relationships are unrelated to sexuality education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1807-1819
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Mississippi
  • Nigeria
  • Sexuality education
  • nongovernmental organisations (NGOs)
  • policy adoption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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