(NC) Sexual education lays the groundwork for a lifetime of strong personal values and gives students the opportunity to develop meaningful and respectful relationships. While this may be considered basic knowledge to most Canadian teenagers, this is not the case in classrooms around the world.
In Nyakagyezi, Western Uganda, volunteers are imparting sexual health information to 100 or so 12- to 20-year olds who are listening with rapt attention. This could be because in Uganda, 24 per cent of female teenagers are either pregnant or have already given birth. Which, for Ugandan girls, almost always means becoming part of the same cycle of poverty that trapped their own parents, and grandparents.
Early motherhood also exposes young women to the health risks of early childbirth, and HIV/AIDS. Uganda is home to 2.2 million orphans, nearly half of which have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic. In total, there are nearly 8 million vulnerable children in Uganda today, including the vast majority of the teens attending this workshop.
The workshops facilitators are members of Reach a Hand Uganda, a Kampala-based, youth-run organization that empowers teens to make more informed decisions regarding their health as nearly half the population is under the age of 14.
The answers being given today are literally saving lives – lowering the birth rate (which averages at 6 children per woman,) reducing the spread of STIs, and creating discussion in a country where sex education is often taught via 1960s textbooks and well-meaning but uneducated family members.
Reach a Hand Uganda’s workshop is sponsored by Beautiful World Canada, an organization that enables young African women to change their futures through education. More information about Beautiful World is available at www.beautifulworld.org.