Sex education in the Wilderness.
Subject: Sex education (Study and teaching)
Health education (Study and teaching)
Nonprofit organizations (Services)
Camps (Educational aspects)
Author: Baumgarten, Robin
Pub Date: 08/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: August, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Product: Product Code: 8380000 Nonprofit Institutions; 8300000 Social Services & Nonprofit Institutns NAICS Code: 813 Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations; 624 Social Assistance SIC Code: 8300 SOCIAL SERVICES
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 188293325
Full Text: The cry of twelve voices rings out "NO! NO! NO!" over and over again as fists strike rhythmically at the invisible assailant in the centre of the circle. The purple mountains embrace this group of girls as the sun blazes overhead and their voices echo into the Hoanib River. These young women have just learnt about their sexual rights and are practising to say no with power and conviction.

Every year, Children in the Wilderness (C1TW) runs four week-long camps for orphans and vulnerable children. The camps take place at one of Wilderness Safaris' luxury lodges where the children can experience the beauty of the Namibian landscape. While environmental education is the primary focus of the camps, the programme provides for a holistic approach, fostering the children's self-esteem, confidence and hope. Another key element is HIV education. While many such programmes continue to focus on the ABCs of prevention, CITW is trying a different approach, encompassing sexual rights.

According to CITW General Manager, Sarah Omura, "We are in a unique position on camp, a position where we can have a real impact on the lives of the children. We felt we needed to foster a different approach to HIV education, one that focuses more on the culture and beliefs of the communities where children are coming from and the cultural barriers to their wellbeing and future health and happiness."

A real education

For the majority of the session on sexual rights, girls and boys work separately so that they feel free to discuss the issues openly. They learn about the male and female reproductive systems, about birth control, and about their sexual rights. For many of the girls who attend camp, the notion of sexual rights is revolutionary. "It seemed as if the more rural the group, the more shocked they are to discover that they have rights," says Sarah. "It's an incredibly important thing to be telling these girls who are oblivious to their rights over their own bodies. Many of them seem to have no-one to turn to or to watch out for them; in many instances, even their own families are abusing and forcing them to have sex with men. It's equally important therefore to educate the boys to respect the girls and not to abuse them in these ways."

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The boys often cite peer pressure as one of the biggest challenges they face when it comes to sex. Many boys admit to having sex before they are ready because of teasing and instigating by friends.

Hitting home

During the session, girls and boys are given a chance to anonymously ask any questions they have. The questions the girls ask reinforce the importance of educating girls on their rights:

My father wants to sell me to a sugar daddy. What can I do?

If my parents tell me I must sleep with a man who is staying with us, what must I do?

People say if I don't have sex, I will die. Is this true?

My father says he brought me into the world, therefore he has the right to have sex with me. Is that true?

Parents say we must get married to a man they have arranged when we are still at school. What can we do?

Children in the Wilderness provides contact information for organisations like Lifeline/Childline and the Women and Child Protection Unit in their area, but as the girls begin to understand that they have rights, CITW also works with them to come up with their own solutions. Through role plays and discussions that involve both girls and boys, the children identify people whom they can trust in their communities and work through the issues that put them at risk.

In one role play on forced early marriage, a fifteen-year-old girl who was ordered to marry a forty-eight-year-old man found support from one of her teachers who helped her to contact the police. In the drama, the 'police officer' cited the Namibian Constitution as protection from early marriage as he carted the father and the suitor off to jail.

By guiding the children and giving them the opportunity to find solutions to these problems, Children in the Wilderness hopes that we will see more of these happy endings in real life and not just in role plays.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Sexual Rights for young people

* To have access to adequate information about my body and my sexuality;

* To choose my sexual partner when I am ready;

* To have sex that makes me feel good about myself and my body;

* To protect myself from unwanted pregnancy and from disease;

* To say no to unwanted sexual advances.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.