Sexuality Education Partner Highlight: Teen Health Mississippi

At Faith in Women we know that access to quality sexuality education is critical for ensuring young people have the tools and information they need to lead healthy, happy lives. Mississippi parents know this too–that’s why they overwhelmingly support age-appropriate sexuality education in public schools.

As we continue to work toward universal, comprehensive sexuality education for every young person, we know that faith leaders have an important role to play both in providing and advocating for sex ed. Religious communities are uniquely positioned to minister to the full range of needs that young people have, including questions and concerns about their sexuality and relationships with one another. If you want to learn more about comprehensive sexuality education and get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these programs, please visit our past blog posts on these topics here and here.

Faith leaders in our network often ask us, “How do I get trained to provide sexuality education?”

This month we are excited to share about the inspiring work of our partners at Teen Health Mississippi, an organization providing essential training and resources to those who seek to offer research-based, developmentally-appropriate sexuality education in their communities. They offer a wide-range of affordable, accessible trainings for different audiences, including parents, teachers, and health practitioners.

In 2017 Faith in Women had an opportunity to participate in one of their Foundations Core Skills Training for Sex Ed, and last month we partnered up with Teen Health Mississippi to host one in Biloxi. If you couldn’t attend this training and are interested in attending one in the future, please send us an email, and we will be in touch to discuss this further.

The Foundations Core Skills Training is a one-day program designed to bolster participants’ facilitation skills, so that they are better prepared to offer sexuality education in their communities. Some of the components of the training include:

  • climate building in the classroom,
  • understanding state and local sex education policies,
  • facilitation techniques,
  • values clarification,
  • managing personal disclosure, and
  • handling difficult questions and harassing comments.

Those who wish to receive additional training may opt for a supplementary half-day workshop on topics such as:

  • commonly used sex education strategies,
  • LGBTQ inclusive sex education,
  • a trauma-informed approach to sex education, and
  • cultural proficiency in sex education.

Teen Health Mississippi is an essential resource for anyone and everyone invested in the health and well-being of our children and young people. Check out their website and resource page to learn more about all they have to offer. 

Celebrating Our Members

As we kick off this new year at Faith in Women, we first want to take this opportunity to celebrate the amazing contributions of our supporters in 2017.  In December we asked you to participate in a year-end engagement survey to let us know about the work you have done in your communities to advance and advocate for reproductive health and rights in Mississippi–and we were blown away by what we learned from the responses!

Supporter Activities

Over the past year, our supporters have engaged in all kinds of activities, including:

  • Supporting the sexuality education work of Teen Health Mississippi that improves the lives of teens and young adults  
  • Contacting state and federal representatives about issues that impact marginalized communities, including immigration, police violence, Medicaid expansion, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Championing pro-choice women running for elected office  
  • Attending lobby visits coordinated by Planned Parenthood Southeast
  • Conducting and presenting research on advocacy to academic conferences

We are amazed at the breadth and depth of the work you all do on a daily basis to make Mississippi a more just, compassionate place for women and girls.

Partnerships with Organizations 

At Faith in Women we know that working across justice movements is critical for long-term, sustainable social change, so were pleased to learn from all of you about how you support many other like-minded organizations through financial giving and volunteering, including:

About Our Members 

Our survey was helpful in learning more about the individuals who participate in our programs. Here are a few key pieces of data that we thought were most important to share:

  • Nearly all (88%) of our supporters identify with a particular faith tradition or spiritual practice
  • 56% of our membership participates regularly, either as leader or attendee, in a particular faith community
  • 31% of respondents identify as spiritual or religious but do not affiliate with a specific faith community at this time

Why is this important? Because it reinforces what we know to be true–that people of faith, even in Mississippi, want to see a more just world for women and girls. And while the majority of our members identify as people of faith or faith leaders (we are called Faith in Women, after all), we also have some members who do not personally belong to a faith tradition but still support the work we do to create spaces that allow for nuanced conversations and advocacy regarding faith and reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Responding to the Survey

One thing we heard loud and clear–you all want more! More opportunities to connect with each other locally, more in-person events to learn about issues, and more web-based activities to join. We’ll do our best to make this happen!

As we finish our planning for 2018, we will be prioritizing the program and education areas that our members most requested of us in the coming year:

  • Abortion in Mississippi
  • Reproductive Healthcare
  • Prevention of gender-based violence
  • Women’s economic security
  • Networking opportunities

Thanks to all of our members for a justice-focused year. We can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in 2018!

July Partner Highlight: Women’s Foundation of Mississippi

Women’s Foundation of Mississippi

Our summer blog series features some of our partner organizations working in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. This month we highlight the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi.

The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi has been a supporter of the work of Faith in Women since our earliest days. Here’s a little background on this organization and its powerful work!


The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi works to ensure that all women and girls in the state have economic stability, which is connected to their ability to make decisions around if and when to become pregnant. Both a grantmaking and advocacy organization, the foundation seeks to create social change that will allow Mississippi’s women and their families to live their lives with safety, health, and financial security because “when women thrive, Mississippi thrives.”

Brief History

Started in 1999 as a portfolio of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi was officially launched in 2003 as the sole grantmaking entity focused on the well-being of Mississippi’s women and girls. In its first year the foundation gave $6,000 in grants, and by its fifth year it awarded $68,000.

By 2009 the Women’s Foundation had become its own separate entity. Shortly thereafter in 2011 the foundation committed to focusing on the need for proper sexuality education and teenage pregnancy prevention in the state.

Today the foundation awards more than $650,000 annually in grants to organizations across the state working to make Mississippi a better place for women and their families.

Supporting Faith in Women

Faith in Women has been a grantee of the Women’s Foundation since 2016. Funds from the foundation have allowed us to build our strengths in providing comprehensive sex education training and resources to faith communities around the state. Thanks to the Women’s Foundation, we have expanded our staff, built partnerships across Mississippi, and developed an inventory of curricula, trainings, and other sex ed resources to share with churches and faith communities.

Through 2018, we’ll be working to support churches and communities as they begin comprehensive sex ed programs for youth and parents. Contact us to get a sex ed program started in your church or town!

Opportunities to Connect

There are a number of ways you can support the work of the Women’s Foundation. Visit the “Get Involved” page on their website to make a donation, contact your legislators about key issues affecting women and girls, or sign up for email alerts. You can also follow the work of the foundation through their Facebook page and Twitter account.

February Resource Review: Responding to Common Questions about Sex Ed

This is the second part of our blog series focused on comprehensive sexuality education. You can read our introductory post here. Over the course of 2017 we’ll also discuss topics like reproductive justice, health care, and advocacy- so stay tuned!

Thinking of starting a sex ed program in your church or faith community? Are you seeing a need for this information among your congregation, but you aren’t sure how to talk about it with parents, youth leaders, or other decision-makers? The goal of this post is to give you key talking points to support your conversations with parents and other congregants about the role of your community in providing comprehensive sexuality education. We explore four common questions surrounding sexuality education, including some prevalent misconceptions,  and how you can respond to them with understanding and compassion.

Sex Ed Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: I’m not comfortable with our youth engaging in sexual activity before marriage. Shouldn’t we just teach them about abstinence?

Multiple studies have found that abstinence-only education programs have no bearing on when a young person decides to engage in sexual activity. These programs are not only ineffective; they are often harmful to the health and well-being of young people. By definition abstinence-only education exclusively focuses on the benefits of completely abstaining from any and all sexual activity prior to marriage. No attention is paid to contraception or preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  It’s not surprising that these programs correlate with high rates of teen pregnancy and STIs like chlamydia. Comprehensive sex ed programs include conversations about abstinence. They acknowledge and emphasize that abstinence is the only 100% effective method for preventing pregnancy and STIs, and they also ensure that young people have all the information they need to make healthy decisions if they do decide to become sexually active.

Question #2: If we teach young people about contraception, aren’t we condoning premarital sex?

When young people have all of the information they need to make responsible decisions about their sexuality, including how to avoid pregnancy and STIs, they are more likely to delay sexual activity. One study of forty-eight comprehensive sexuality education programs identified several behavioral changes that resulted from participation in these programs, including:

  • Delayed initiation of sex
  • Reduction in number of sexual partners
  • Increased condom and/or contraceptive use

Question #3: We only have young children at our church. Why do we need to worry about sex education?

As we explored in last month’s post, comprehensive sexuality education is about more than sex. Our sexuality includes our anatomy, identity, and values, among other areas. Maintaining a healthy sexuality is a lifelong process of learning and growing. That’s why the curricula for programs like Our Whole Lives begin with children as young as kindergarten-age and span all the way to adulthood. And in today’s world, even young children face complicated issues like sexualized images in the media, bullying, and inappropriate or harmful use of technology. A good comprehensive sex education program teaches skills for dealing with all of these challenges and more.    

Question #4: Are you sure church is an appropriate place to talk about sex? Shouldn’t young people be getting this information in health class at school?

Faith settings offer a unique opportunity to minister to the physical and mental, as well as spiritual, health of young people. Holding honest and open discussions about sexuality can provide a sacred space for them to discern how their faith will inform their values about their bodies and their relationships. By providing a nonjudgmental space for dialogue, you will establish more trust and better communication with the young people in your community. Our hope is that youth will turn to responsible, caring adults with their questions and concerns rather than rely on their peers or potentially inaccurate information on the  internet.

Not sure how to get started on offering comprehensive sexuality education in your community?

Faith in Women is here to help!

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Claire Kimberly has joined our staff to work specifically on sexuality education in faith communities. Dr. Kimberly teaches human sexuality classes in college settings and studies a variety of sexual health topics. She graduated from Samford University with a degree in communication studies and from the University of Kentucky with a master’s and doctorate in family science. She has a certificate in family life education (CFLE) and in applied statistics. Having grown up in a Methodist church, Dr. Kimberly is excited about the assistance she can give to Faith in Women and the community.

You can reach us by sending us an email through our contact page


January Resource Review: Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Welcome to the Faith in Women Resource Review! This monthly blog series will feature some of our favorite tools and resources, and we’re kicking things off with an introduction to our 2017 work on comprehensive sexuality education.


Why is Faith in Women focusing on comprehensive sexuality education (often referred to simply as “sex ed”)?

Young people in Mississippi are struggling to live full and healthy lives. Our rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea are the second highest in the nation. With health outcomes like these, it’s easy to understand why Mississippi parents overwhelmingly support age-appropriate sexuality education being taught in the classroom. In spite of the great need and desire for comprehensive sexuality education, our public schools are not required to offer it, and many students fall through the cracks.

As we work to ensure every young person has access to quality sexuality education, we know that faith leaders have a critical role to play. Religious communities are uniquely positioned to minister to the full range of needs that young people have, including their need for accurate, science-based information about their sexual and reproductive health. Training for comprehensive sexuality education is one of the most frequent requests we receive from faith leaders, and we are making strides to ensure that these trainings are available and accessible to our network.

What do you mean by comprehensive sexuality education?

Sex is about more than biology, and sexual health is about more than preventing disease and ill-timed pregnancy. As people of faith we know that our health is connected with our physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Our personal well-being is vital to forming healthy relationships with one another.

As opposed to an abstinence-only curriculum, which narrowly focuses on refraining from sex outside of a marriage relationship, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum includes a broad range of evidence-based information about:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Families and healthy relationships
  • Personal safety and boundary-setting
  • Pregnancy and birth
  • STIs, including HIV
  • Contraceptives and pregnancy options
  • Sexual orientation and identity
  • Media literacy

To learn more about the standards for a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, please visit the Future of Sex Education website.

How can I get involved with providing comprehensive sexuality education in my community?

Faith in Women is in the early stages of planning a number of trainings in 2017 based on the Foundations Core Skills Training for Sex Ed. If you are interested in speaking with us about planning one of these trainings, please contact us. We will also be sharing additional opportunities for learning more about sexuality education over the next few months, so stay tuned.

To learn more about what you can do to ensure all young people Mississippi have access to comprehensive sexuality education, we recommend that you visit our partner Teen Health Mississippi, which advocates for policies regarding sexual health and provides training and programs for those who want to better serve young people.

When the young people you serve have access to the comprehensive, medically-accurate sexuality education they deserve, they will make healthy and responsible decisions regarding their sexuality, their bodies, and their relationships with one another.