* Bisi, a 16 year old girl who participated briefly in Project ASHA’s Empowering Women of the Future (EWOF) project almost three years ago recently had a baby. Now she must teach a child all the child needs to know before she has finished learning herself.
Where do children come from, wondered *Tola, a seven year old girl? Her mother had told her that God gives married people children, however, if an unmarried girl allows a man to touch her, she will become pregnant. Her mother did not explain the type of touch, she is determined to not allow any man touch her. What if a boy touches her, she wonders?
*Toyin just turned 10 and is curious about her body, she doesn’t know how it works. Like many girls about her age, she only knows the ‘street names’ of her sex organs. No one has taught her sex education.
Let the children sit in
“Maybe if our mothers behaved differently, teaching us correct information about sex instead of browbeating us into ‘conformity’ with derogatory analogies, our generation would not be this messed up.”
Sex education is still considered a taboo in many parts of the world and Africa is no exception. Many parents and guardians shy away from this responsibility, thereby exposing their wards to the dangers of mis-education about sex, HIV/AIDs, pregnancy. Children who find themselves in this situation are left with no option but to learn what they can by picking up bits and pieces on the streets, in the playground, from their friends, from adults who may exploit this to their perverse advantage.
Children should not first learn about their body and sex in the playground, or at school.
The Sex education forum recommends teaching children about sex from an early age, helping them see this topic as part of their broader education.
Parents and guardians must take responsibility for when and what their children learn about sex, but when they fall short, schools and organizations should step in and teach correct information about sex.
Spread the ‘Correct’ word
“Teaching correct information about sex provides the guarantee that correct information can be past on from mother to child, a friend to another friend or one girl to a group of other girls.”
One way EWOF does this is through its weekly group sessions with girls and women in underserved communities in Lagos and Calabar where the project runs.
Information is power. Correct information should not come at a premium especially when it pertains to young and impressionable girls and issues concerning sex.
Empowering teenage girls with the correct information would not only help them make informed choices, it provides the guarantee that correct information can be passed on from mother to child, a friend to another friend or one girl to a group of other girls.
* Names Changed
About the Author
Vweta Chadwick is currently ASHA's Global Programmes Director.
Empowering women of the future (EWOF) is a flagship project of ASHA Empowerment and Development Initiative. It won the LEAP Africa’s Social Innovators Awards in 2013.
This post oringinally appeared on Development Diaries.