Being open and honest about a sensitive but important subject…
*For information about our 2011 Fundraising Drive,
please visit our Donations page.*
The following post was written by
Doctors Gelane Workneh and Leah Scherzer,
Paediatric AIDS Corps Doctors with the Baylor International Paediatric AIDS Initiative
This June’s Teen Club in Gaborone was about a very sensitive and important subject…sex. When teens are asked what topics they want to learn about at Teen Club, sexual issues are often first on the list. There are numerous myths and misconceptions all over the world when it comes to sex. This is especially true in a conservative country like Botswana where teachers, caregivers, and even some healthcare workers are reluctant to talk openly with teenagers, deeming this topic inappropriate and unnecessary for adolescents. For teenage patients at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence (BBCCOE), a sex-education focused Teen Club forum where questions can be asked and myths and misconceptions can be corrected is the perfect opportunity to positively affect attitudes and thoughts.
In preparation for this discussion/forum, teens were notified a month earlier that the June Teen Club would be about sex, giving them enough time and opportunity to prepare questions. The team placed a visible box in the clinic for them to write down anonymous questions about sex and sexual health.
On the day of the event, teens were divided into the usual two groups (13-15 and 16-19 year olds). For the younger teens we had 3 stations: playing games; dispelling myths; and a short discussion on puberty and importance of abstinence. The teens rotated from station to station every 40 minutes. There was concern that that some might not be mature enough for the topics, but once again they surprised us with their maturity, concentration, and engagement with the topic.
During the short discussion on puberty we taught them about the normal changes that the body goes through, as they get older, the importance of abstinence and the need for protection when abstinence is impossible. We also answered many of the questions they had about sexual issues and puberty. During the myths/facts session the teens were given a myth and asked to go to the area of the courtyard corresponding to their feelings about the myth (true, false, or don’t know). We then discussed the answers in detail, dispelling such myths as “two condoms are better than one” (two condoms are NOT better than one!) and “a girl cannot get pregnant if she has sex standing up” (She CAN!) which are two common myths in Botswana.
The older teens had male and female condom demonstrations led by three wonderful volunteers from the Ministry of Health (MOH), who volunteered their time and expertise on a Saturday. Their experience is extensive – they have conducted demonstrations all overBotswanain many different settings from schools to community centers to other public gatherings.
Teens were divided based on gender, in an effort to encourage more open discussion and stimulate questions. Most were eager to share what they thought to be correct information about condoms and their use. The demonstrations certainly stimulated questions ranging from myths of pregnancy and changes the body goes through during puberty to more complex issues such as age of sexual debut and perceived ideas about the roles of a man and a woman in a relationship.
We ended the session by getting all the older teens together and answering their questions (both those they had placed in the question box and those which they came up with on the spot). We appreciated the surprised gasps when reviewing normal male and female reproductive organs. Once encouraged these young men and women were eager to take the opportunity to ask and demystify concepts about sex and sexual health. Due to time constraints we were unable to answer every single question and will definitely have to have more sessions on this topic in the future.
All in all, the event went better than the team expected. The teens were serious and mature about discussing the subject, even more so than many adults when placed in similar situations. By conducting this discussion, BBCCOE’s Teen Club once again assures our teens about its continued commitment to their healthy growth and development. We felt their appreciation through their enthusiastic participation, eager concentration, and mature disposition. An opportunity continues to present itself to this team to change and affect these teens towards positive living. YA CHESA!!
*Editors Note – The Teens as well as the Teen Club staff would like to bid a fond farewell to Dr. Gelane and Dr. Leah as well as Dr. Premel. In their two years at the COE they treated us and cared for us. Not only as patients, but as friends. Their service to us Teens is more appreciated than they can possibly imagine. We hope they continue to find success and fulfilment in all they pursue; We know they will never fail to make an impact as they have with us at Baylor.