There is no precise definition for life skills. However, different agencies have tried to define life skills according to their own understanding. In 1999 Department of Mental Health, WHO defined life skills education ‘as a design to facilitate the practice and re- information of psycho-skills in a cultural and developmentally appropriate way, it contributes to the promotion of personal and development, the prevention of health and social problems and the protection of Human Rights’.
In a two-day Life Skills Workshop organised by Remedia Trust which was supported by UNESCO, the participants accepted the following two definitions for life skills:
1. Life skills are abilities for adoptive and positive behaviour.
2. Life skills refer to the ability to maintain the state of mental and physical well-being while interacting with others within the local culture and environment.
Much like the definition, there is also no definite list of the life skills. This means that life skills will vary according to the conditions and situations of a person for example, negotiation/refusal skills may be given more emphasis in an area where HIV and AIDS is more prevalent and stress management skills may be taught in a conflict- oriented area. Many skills are nevertheless used simultaneously in practice.
The interrelationship between the skills, result in the personality development of the individual and more so if it is supported by the national policy, media and the health services for a county.
For example, a person may show the skills of empathy for people living with HIV and AIDS and uses the advocacy skills to express his/her concern. The expression of the concerns will be more effective if there is community participation. This community participation can be brought about through the medium of a particular skill.
The purpose of the life skills in the context of the present discussion is to improve the standard of life of the individual and in particular of the people living with HIV and AIDS as well as those who are affected by it. Life skills education helps in understanding one’s own role with the changing societal structure and functions.
Life skills education aims at a comprehensive behaviour change approach, which will enable the individual to develop the skills which are needed to face the complex world. These skills include communication, decision-making, critical thinking, controlling emotions, resisting peer pressures, establishing relationships etc.
They also address important issues and spread awareness among young people and guide them towards imbibing new values. Life skills education is not concentrated on providing information only. It also helps the individual to help oneself so that a person is able to make use of all the necessary information and knowledge related to HIV and AIDS and other issues of concern thereby enabling him/her to live a life without fear. The application of life skills may also overlap depending upon different situations.
Life skills education is being promoted mainly among the youth partly due to the perceived limitation of information about HIV and AIDS and related issues.
Past experiences show that life skills education has enabled the youth to a great extent to understand themselves. They become aware about the issues/activities taking place in and around them and within their peer group.