She slowly crouched while pressing her back against the wall. Her legs were no longer able to support her weight, but instead, they trembled. She rubbed her hands down her hips, trying to wipe off the dripping sweat and simultaneously offering more balance as she felt lightheaded. Her tears felt acidic as they burned through her cheeks, leaving traces of pain and discomfort. Intrinsically she knew that crying her guts out would not solve anything yet+ all she could do was weep dangerously. One tiny mistake and here she was, facing what had been described to her as a death sentence.
Slowly, she traced her steps back to the last month, trying to understand where she had gone wrong. The memory hit her like a storm pushing her down to the ground where she sat in contemplative silence. Guilt was filling her mind as she thought back to that moment when their bodies had collided in a dangerously intimate hug. She had broken a rule, fallen into the hands of a taboo and now she was two weeks late and confident that she was paying the ultimate price- an unplanned pregnancy, furthermore at the mere age of ten.
I had my first period when I was ten years old, and after two consecutive months of a regular period, I was hit with my first ever missed period. At that age, a missed period meant only one thing to me. I was 100% sure that I was pregnant and immediately moved to the ‘what happens to me now’ phase. I traced it back to the nigh then one of my closest guy friends walked me up to my room. At the doorstep, he looked right into my eyes and inched closer to me and gave me a hug. That was the most intimate I had ever been with anyone. It was a moment of such pure intimacy, and a few weeks later there I was…Pregnant.
Thinking back to this part of my story, I am amused by all the misinformation I got about my sexuality, sexual, and reproductive health rights. The fact that I thought it was possible to get pregnant after an intimate hug or the fact that I did not know anything about irregular period cycles was ignorance that caused me so much pain. Adding salt to injury, we were informed continuously, that having an unwanted pregnancy was a death sentence. The cherry on top of is misinformation and slut-shaming. These two issues are pat the area, which prevented me from telling anybody of my fear. Instead, I just waited it out, hoping my end would not be as shameful as others I had witnessed before.
Obviously, I wasn’t pregnant (because you can’t get pregnant over a hug), but I still didn’t understand a lot about sex, sexuality, and reproduction until my late teens. Notably, most of the accurate and vital information I learnt about sex was from the internet and science books. While this saved me from a lot of questions, I was still very naive to the social aspects of sex, sexuality and reproduction. Concepts such as consent were not things I understood. I did not know much about period stigma or homophobia, and all this put me in a vulnerable position in my life.
In retrospect, these conversations were what I expected to learn from home. Still, sex education looks very different for most African children, especially those who were brought up in religious homes. Instead of talking to teenagers about the reality of what sex is, the sex talk is blurred social norms and religious beliefs which bias the information provided. ‘The talk’ is usually very shot and metaphoric with simple messaging filled with ultimatums.
‘Do not have sex before marriage, or you will go to hell.’
‘Don’t talk to boys or you will get pregnant’ ‘
Girls who hang out with boys a lot have low self-worth.’
‘Be careful out there there are lesbians’
Some of the most pressing issues right now include teenage pregnancy, teenagers getting sexually transmitted infections, back-door abortions and a whole lot of unplanned pregnancy among the youth. At a time where information seems to be the most available good in the market, it is disappointing that this kind of problems exists. One of the main reasons we have found ourselves in this predicament is due to the lack of proper sex education. Most children, especially in Africa, grow up being told that sex is ‘tabia mbaya‘-bad manners. This is often followed by a few threats of what could happen if you had any physical relations with people from the opposite sex and in a religious household, there would be reading or recitals of necessary verses. Undoubtedly that was not a sustainable situation teenagers are curious and giving them less information makes them want to know more, to explore and answer the why to their questions. They find these answers online or with friend know to know more which would.
The solution to this issue lies in comprehensive sex education in school. One of the essential purposes of education is to equip future generations with the skills and tools for survival. This includes key concepts of the human experience such as matters revolving around sex, sexuality and reproduction. Teaching students about sex in a comprehensive way reduces the chances of students running off to get answers for themselves in a world that is not very kind to naive people. Teaching children about sex needs to be objective and not biased by personal opinions, cultural and religious beliefs. This type of education will give students an objective perspective to sex education, allowing them to learn more and be open to conversations about their sex, sexuality and reproduction. At the same time, it will teach them to critical more socially aware.
Learners who grow up getting comprehensive and unbiased sex education would most likely be more confident, more cautious and more responsive. They also gain an informed perfectible on goes on the world.e about some issues that relate to this field, such as abortion laws or availability of quality reproductive health care for both men and women. Consequently, we will build a world where human beings are dignified despite their gender, sex, sexuality and reproductive decisions. Countries will also save much money that was previously used to mitigate issues such as maternal deaths. In truth, sex education does not encourage students to have sex. On the contrary, it teaches them to be smart in making decisions revolving their sexual life to prevent them from making regrettable mistakes.