My Reflection; #TearDownBarriers
“I was only 13 years old when my mum’s female friend introduced me to sex”. “I was in this sexual relationship with her for 13 years, sometimes she brings her other female friend to share in our intimate sexual experience”. “All these happened without my mum’s knowledge. “Today, this has greatly impacted my sexual health in so many ways”.
Sexuality is a basic part of human existence and the sexual behavior of adolescents and young people is one of the social and public health discuss in recent years. Young people’ s behavior and development is in rapid change and these point us to something – the need for comprehensive sexuality education.
Young people like my friend are already exposed to unhealthy sexual relationships/activities even without the knowledge of their parents or guardian who are supposed to give the ‘first talk’.
In the absence of the typical (parenting talk and/or curriculum-based sex education in schools), the media, pressure groups and peers have served as the first talk giver though with age inappropriate and unscientific messages. The old gist (fab) of sexual abstinence ONLY has made little or no real tangible progress in capacitating young people with knowledge and information they need to make sound decision for themselves.
Young people are becoming vibrant and enthusiastic about their sexual lives and are searching the internet to explore sexual fantasies. The need for comprehensive sexuality education cannot be over emphasized. It provides the platform for which adolescents are able to get detailed and healthy information on HIV/AIDS, contraceptive information, abstinence etc.
Evidence shows that children between the ages of 9-15 years are already exposed to sex without healthy or detailed information. Just like the story of my friend who shared with me on how he was constantly abused by a family friend at 13 until he became 25 years old. He never talked about this experience with anyone, not even his parents or close relatives for fear of not being heard, shamed and stigmatized. However, I am happy he owned and shared his story with me and my friends today. As I see it, he could have been anyone one of us. I believe in the urgency of time for the society to see things the way they really are – things like adolescents having sex, young people needing contraceptives, young women desiring to delay pregnancy etc.
We must begin to #TearDownBarriers for adolescents and young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The societal situation where religion, culture and even economic status posed as barriers to fulfillment of young people’s potential, and the victim shaming must not have to continue. In finding solutions, adolescents and youth friendly centers are great starts (speaking for my community) to provide reproductive healthcare information and services that will serve young people without judgments or stigma.
As I share my reflection from the social media outreach convened by Knit Together Initiative (KTI), I am moved to leverage on my sphere of contacts to advocate for increase investments in information and services (youth friendly centers) for young people. I believe this is significant in dismantling myths and misconceptions, fear and disempowering social norms around sex and sexuality. In so doing, young people will lead more satisfying lives and take advantage of their future and speak up about how they feel and what they want without been judged.
Amarachi Nelly Ikoro
Program Officer Advocacy 11