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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Joy of Sharing Knowledge

Huzeima Mahamadu, 24, Ghana

‘Safe Choices’-Sexual Health Education at Nayorku, West Mamprusi District-Ghana

Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. statement “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance” We at the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS) on International Citizen Service (ICS) programme decided to put the best of our efforts and time to educate the people of Nayorku on ‘Safe Choices’ and sexual health education to free them from such ignorance.

The sensitization at Nayorku began with a team plan formulated by the awareness raising group. Out of the three sensitizations planned, Nayorku was the last and the best. On the 10th of March 2016, and at 7; 15am, the team was ready and the driver took off to Nayorku. On arrival, we were greeted by the sound of drums and the smiling faces of both women and men. We were tempted to join a cultural dance called “Tora” but protocols must be observed first, so we left to go to the linguist’s house to pay our respects to him. He was a very old man and had to delegate his son to go with us to the Chief’s palace. We had to give money to the linguist and the Chief to buy cola-nuts. Traditionally in northern Ghana, whenever you visit a chief and his elders, especially with a special task like ours, you have to offer them cola-nuts. After telling the chief the purpose of our visit which is to improve sexual health education and ‘safe choices’, he was so excited and happily approved to take pictures with us.

Meeting the Chief of Nayorku
We came back to meet the cultural drumming and dancing, which members of the team joined. We were expecting 100 people but surprisingly, a total of 316 community members were present. After the introductory statements, the group was divided into adult males and females. The teenagers were still in school and their presentation began at 2:00pm. The issues we discussed included contraception, teenage pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), consent and misconceptions about sexual health. Also a condom demonstration was carried out in each session.  The women were very passionate about consent and I almost cried when two women readily shared their experiences as accurately translated and quoted below. Oh! I almost forgot to say that all the sensitizations were done in Dagbani because about 95 percent or more of the adults could not speak nor understand English.

First woman - ‘In my marriage,  I didn’t know how to say no to sex or use contraceptive to prevent unwanted pregnancy like you have told us today. I use to hide among my clothes to avoid having sex with my husband. Sometimes it wasn’t because I didn’t want to have sex but due to unwanted pregnancy’

Second woman - ‘My husband always drags me like a rag to have sex with him whenever he wants. I am glad and happy you are talking to us and our husbands on that issue. It may be too late for us but the younger generation is safe now. Thank you
Alice and Huzeima's condom demonstration for the adult women in Nayorku

Most of the women thought menopause was a sickness and that sex brings about a swollen stomach and other illness during that period. They also had a worry that contraceptives can prevent them from giving birth in future. These were a few of the misconceptions implanted in their mind. Thankfully, the presenters enlightened them about these issues and encouraged them to seek medical advice with regards to the use of contraceptives in order to make the right choice. The men’s sensitization too went well and consent was emphasized to make sure the men consider the impact of their decisions on their wives in relation to sex. The teenagers had more knowledge on sexual health and ‘safe choices’. This made the discussion very participatory. The children were engaged in games with the some of the team to keep them busy.

Huzeima discussing puberty with the teenage girls of Nayorku
At the end of each session, questionnaires were administered to examine the impact of the presentation. Also Non Traditional Condom Distributors (NTCDs) were chosen among the adults and peer educators among the teenagers. As much as we wanted to stay with the loving people of Nayorku, we had to leave for Tamale and the bus left at 4;00pm. We were happily tired for sharing our knowledge, time and love with the people of Nayorku.

In the end, I learnt about the cultural values, norms and ideologies of the people of Nayorku and will not hesitate to go there to share my knowledge and experience with them any day, even if it is just a moment. This was our final sensitization at RAINS and both my colleagues and I have learnt so much about not only sexual health but also international development. I have absolute faith that we can continue the work we have done here by sharing our knowledge with our families and friends wherever we live when we return home. I would like to thank all my fellow volunteers for the work they have done and I firmly believe we are now better equipped to change our world.     

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