I have always had a curious mind. I have always wanted to know what it is that makes the world go round.
Growing up in Mombasa, Kenya was a blessing. I had experiences that have made me the person I am today. I grew up in a neighborhood where young people had to possess a certain kind of focus to achieve their dreams. Wait, no – actually – where luck played a great part in who you become. No one deserved anything more or less than another.
The risk of experiencing an early, unwanted pregnancy or contracting HIV/AIDS or an STI was high. We saw it every day, almost inhaled it. Poverty peered unflinchingly at most of the households; proper meals were hard to come by and, if they did, that was it for the day. So, who really had time for sex-talk? Parents were busy, they still are, and talking to their children about sex was not a priority. Additionally, there is so much stigma attached to this topic that it’s even more difficult for parents to introduce it to their children. I speak for many households in Kenya, if not for many other African countries’ households.
I attended a public school - all of my friends did, except for two. At school, we learned about the reproductive system and heard a couple of horrible stories about STIs and HIV/AIDS. That was about it. We were curious to know more about sex and sexuality. My friends and I joined the Chill Club, which was meant to educate us about sex and other topics related to reproductive health. We were told to abstain. Having a conversation about sex and sexuality was taboo and continues to be. Parents expected the teachers to educate us while the teachers expected the parents to do the same - so nothing happened. This is true for many schools in Kenya and with the rapid rise of cases of sexual abuse creeping into Kenyan schools, the issue is being highlighted even more to the government, parents, and anyone involved with children and young people. I hope positive strides are taken in the education system.
My friends and I could always talk. We talked about everything. We might not have had enough information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, but we sure talked about it all the time. We understood each other in a way that no parent or teacher did, like many young people. This is why when young people get a chance to be involved in a youth-led project, it is impactful. They get a chance to take their understanding to a higher level, where they can participate, learn, and lead. Youth-led projects encourage responsibility and channel young people’s energy into constructive work and outcomes. If my friends and I had been involved in a project that encouraged youth to be better, we could have been able to stand up and state our opinions. We would have been able to share our ideas and thoughts about our lives openly with other young people. We need youth-led programs in all areas - urban, remote, rural and marginalized. The energy and creativity is too much to be ignored.
Since my friends and I could always talk, I decided that it would be constructive to engage them for my World Contraception Day Project. This way, more young people will feel comfortable in sharing as well. I hope to be able to tell the stories of young people that will highlight the SRHR needs that young people have and to encourage meaningful conversations on the topic through my online platform. It is important for young people’s stories to be heard and I hope to be part of making this happen.
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.