More youth will make responsible, safe choices about sex as long as they have access to the correct information.
Tamaira Rowe, Secretary of the Youth Advocacy Movement made this clear as she delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of a round table session discussing ‘Investing in Adolescents – Advancing Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Care in Barbados’ in commemoration of World Population Day.
Touching on the myriad of myths that some local youth continue to believe and practise, including, ‘pull-out does really work’, ‘A hot guiness will kill the baby if yuh get pregnant’, or drinking ‘a cap of Clorox before sex protects you from STIs’, Rowe made a compelling case for there to be comprehensive sexual education within schools.
“Imagine, if you will, an adolescent girl, just transitioning from primary to secondary school, who is very new to the feelings and sexual urges she may be experiencing due to her start in puberty. Also imagine that the school which she attends does not provide a safe space for girls to discuss these perfectly natural and normal but very new and ‘foreign’ feelings, her body and the changes she’s experiencing – far less sex, sexual health and rights. This may sound crazy but unfortunately, this is the reality of many teenage girls across the Caribbean who are left to navigate our adolescence basically on our own,” she said.
Highlighting the lack of access to culturally relevant books representative on teenage girls, Rowe pointed out, “There’s limited comprehensive sexuality education classes and sexual health programmes within which we can be empowered and not enough youth friendly educators and youth advocates to impart accurate sexual and reproductive health information so that we are in positions to make informed decisions and be aware of our rights.”
Rowe therefore insisted that limiting access to information, which could be used to make informed and comprehensive sexual and reproductive decisions only left adolescents exposed to possible coercion, exploitation and abuse, and can make them more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
The event was held at the UN House and was hosted by the UNFPA and the Barbados Family Planning Association. (JMB)