I think the youth of today are very lucky. They can easily access information regarding sex, condoms and HIV/AIDS without difficulties. They are not only exposed, they have the right to choose and hopefully make wise choices. I remember the first time I heard about sex/HIV/AIDS/condoms was when I was in standard 4 if not 5. I was about nine years old and sex talk was not a welcomed discussion. If you asked me then what came in my mind upon hearing the word, I would say something insulting and dirty that adults never want us knowing. I had so many questions and no answers. Of course, we had that topic “growing up and changing” which was meant to answer all the WHAT, WHY and HOWS? To be honest, it only left me more confused and curious.
Let us fast forward to this generation. They talk about sex like it is nothing. It is even stupid to assume that every youth is keeping themselves for marriage or yet practicing safe sex. I mean, the other day I went to chat with the women in the neighboring village and there was a group of young girls playing. From their looks, none of them had reached puberty and were not more than thirteen years of age. I was shocked to be told that one of the girls went to church to meet a priest to confess her sins. Yes, this young girl just had sex and the women thought it amusing rather than alarming. Instead of counselling her, they made jokes of her priest-visit, never mentioning the dangers this young girl is exposing herself to. Throughout the jokes, the girl joined the women in laughter. But then again, having sex at a young age is a very common scenario in our communities. While the future of these hopeful youths is at stake, we can choose to laugh, make jokes and ignore the intended consequences or give them the right information to at least protect themselves.
These past few months I have been fortunate enough to be a Grassroot Soccer facilitator, discussing HIV/AIDS, sex, condom use and gender with different youths. This has taught me how important openness regarding these issues is very crucial to the development of these youths if they are to be fully empowered individuals. I will not lie, it is never easy addressing such sensitive topics, establishing a safe space to hold such discussions is never easy, but once it has been identified, the enlightenment that comes after is very liberating.
My father once said, “Educate a person as best as you can. If they choose to misuse the information obtained, at least you will know you tried.” Similarly, as a leader living amongst youths who are not sure about their sexuality and could easily destroy their future because they simply did not have accurate information. Whenever possible, it is important to hold active discussions to help the youth make wise decisions about sex, its consequences, using condoms and most especially help them know the importance of abstinence. You ask yourself how you want to empower the youth, I say there is no better way.