Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Knowledge is Power

There are many misunderstandings and opinions on the issue of sexual health, even though constantly discussed in some cultures. To find out from my host community about their perception on the issue, using the research skills I have developed whilst with RAINS I conducted my own survey in my free time.  My host mom was the first to share her opinion. Out of the thirteen people I interviewed in Kalpohin community, she was among the seven who believe sex education is beneficial and should be encouraged: "Children should know before hand, to make them aware of what they will go through. It will serve as a guide for them"

 Meanwhile, others strongly opposed: "I totally disagree. It'll only lead my kids into practising it", said a middle-aged woman. "That's true, it's bad and should never be encouraged”, a young mother replied. "To me, it should be considered a taboo". That came from a father of five. All the other eight who responded negatively circled around the same reasons: religion and culture, prevention of premarital sex, illegitimate pregnancy and abortion, preservation of virginity, maintaining family honour and dignity, and some others.

It is encouraging that almost half of my participants agreed on the merits of sex education. However, that is still a half too few, and there is still a long way to go in Ghana. The benefits of sex education are many. Just as an example, other surveys have shown that children who are not educated about sexuality, including changes during puberty, are more likely to embark on unsafe practices and become pregnant in their teenage years, than those who are educated about sex.

The silence around sexuality and the lack of education also leads young people to seek information about their bodies and sexual health from often unreliable sources. They become totally misinformed. They 'learn' from peers without knowledge, media, badly written  books, and even pornography!  In our media-saturated world and with the absence of a comprehensive sexuality education, pornography is increasingly becoming a  source of  education for young people! The harm caused from  learning about sexuality solely through these sources cannot be overemphasised. Abstinence of course is an option, but preaching abstinence alone will not help. When adolescents become sexually matured they may still practice unsafe sex, contracting STIs or becoming pregnant. It only takes that one time.

 Knowledge they say, is power, and this power when bestowed on adolescents could be the difference between an irrational decision and a well informed one. I have heard teenage mothers express their regrets on the issue. The sorrowful cries of one sixteen year old mother who whilst adoring her child admits "if I had known about contraception and about my body during puberty, my life may have been very different".

As a team Safe Choices have recorded many successes in spreading sex education, but last Friday we attempted to sensitise a community who were hostile to our ‘safe sex’ message. They considered sexual health education as a way of getting the youth involved in sexual activities, and would not attend our event. The team's spirit (for a moment) went down, for we had worked so hard in preparation for the event. Such a challenge it was, but we shook it off. We know why we're on ICS: "CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO CHANGE THE WORLD". That's the motto, isn't it? With this in mind we picked ourselves up, sat down as a team, and have since begun crafting a different strategy for future cohorts to spread the message. Safe Choices won’t give up on the message.The same message has been delivered and well received through radio sensitisations and training sessions, and Safe Choices will continue with it. 

We will continue to spread our message about safe sex, with radio proving popular!

Going back to my survey, it has enabled me to impact on hesitant people in my host community about the merits of sex education. I can't wait to go back home to the south, to my community, to spread this great knowledge I have gained through the ICS program.  The journey has been challenging indeed, but very rewarding. Living with different people, with different behaviours, necessitated the development of some good traits and cross cultural bonding to keep the team going. Now, I have a broader knowledge of development, not just on issues such as (sexual) health but many others. How both local and global development can be achieved, and how I can personally contribute to it.

Finally, to finish on the issue of sexual health education, I think it should ideally start in the home. Parents should engage their children so that they become active participants in this development process. The social development of young people is a product of family and society partnership. The youth today are the future of tomorrow. If they're not well directed, they could choose the dangerous path.

RAINS volunteers/team leader after discussing development with Tamale based school children. Instilling knowledge is power!

Education is by no means an enemy of humanity, but a lack of it is.

Author: Queeny Felicity Inkoom
Edited by: Sian Johnston

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