Author Topic: SIMPLE WAYS PARENTS CAN EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT SEX  (Read 1309 times)

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SIMPLE WAYS PARENTS CAN EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT SEX
« on: April 25, 2009, 01:18:43 PM »
  Simple ways parents can educate their children about sex
By VINCENT AKANMODE and ADEOLA BALOGUN

Dr Uwem Essiet, Founder of Action Health Incoporated, a non-governmental organisation devoted to health issues concerning the youth, recounts the accidental circumstances in which the organisation came into being. He also hints on the best ways to educate children on sex-related issues. He spoke with VINCENT AKANMODE and ADEOLA BALOGUN


Dr Uwem Essiet, Founder, Action Health Incorporated

Why do you prefer running an NGO to practising medicine?

There was a beautiful coincidence. After I left the university in 1983, I came back to Lagos and got involved in private medical practice. Having worked for a while in two hospitals, I wanted to establish my own clinic, but I wanted to bring in something different from what others had. It was clear to me that I could go into family planning, and in the course of looking for how to make this happen, I went to the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria. As I got there that day, I was privileged to meet a very wonderful nurse called Mrs Odugbemi. She looked at me and started advising me, asking me why I had to buy family planning materials instead of participating in courses run for nurses and doctors at their headquarters there. She said many times, doctors didn?t come and the classes were mainly full of nurses.

So what did you do?

Rather than buying materials, I went to make enquiries about the courses. Fortunately, a course was about to start, and I registered. In that class, I was the only doctor. You can imagine a class of about 30, I was the only doctor while the rest were women nurses and the course facilitator was Mrs Oyagbola who is now with MTN. During the three-week course, there was a topic on proposal writing, and at the end of it, she gave us a list of organisations which we could write proposals to. Then there was family health services project sponsored by the USAID in the country, and one of the participating organisations was Family Planning International. I wrote a proposal to the organisation and took it there. Then providence was at work. On getting there, I asked to see the country director even though I didn?t know who he was. I was ushered in. Although there were just the two of us in the room, I did not look at his face closely to realise that he was my senior in the university and we shared the same hall. I began to give a run down of my proposal. He allowed me to exhaust myself before he made a familiar statement which we used to say way back in our hall of residence in the university. I then looked at him closely and realised that he was the one. I was surprised. After that, providence played itself out again.

How?

Unknown to me, a few weeks from the day I met him, they were going to organise a training workshop, and they had already done the registration. But he instructed that my name be included. That was how I did the training and after the exercise, I benefited from a grant which was meant to introduce family planning awareness programmes into some markets in Lagos. A key component was that we needed to do a big advocacy activity in the market and himself as the country director of FPI had the responsibility of bringing the US mission director to the event. Then I needed to bring in the media, and my wife was then with The Guardian newspaper. I told her about it, and she said it would be unethical for her to cover the project, but that she would bring in some of her colleagues. The following day, about four or five newspapers published the event and I took the newspapers to the FPI country director and he was surprised at how easy it was for me to do that. He said he had been doing the work for a while but he had never had such a wide media coverage. I reminded him that my wife who was also at the same university studying sociology was a journalist with The Guardian. He then said both of us could work together with each of us bringing in our experience to complement each other and bring health education to young people.

So what you are saying is that you originally did not have the intention of bringing in your wife?

Of course, no. He was the one who brought the idea of the two of us forming an NGO. That was why I said everything that happened was by providence. I came home and told my wife what our friend suggested and she asked me what an NGO was. I told her that even myself, I didn?t know what it was. That was how we started to discuss with our friends and doing meetings. We had a blueprint ready and at that point, providence played another one when two people came on the scene. There was a friend, Tolu Osadipe, who was also working with The Guardian. She had a sister who was working with the Lagos State Ministry of Education. So when we were talking about reaching out to schools, it was the friend who introduced us to the sister at the ministry. That was how we penetrated the public schools in Lagos. Then, my wife had to go and have her baby. She went to Calabar to spend some time with my sister, and while she was there, providence played another game on her. In Calabar, there was one Dr Ita Williams who was then working on HIV/AIDS and women. She was one of the founders of Society for Women and AIDS in Africa, and my sister brought my wife and Dr Williams together. She said there was a plan to found the Nigerian chapter of the society and she asked my wife whether she would be interested in being a part of it. She in fact introduced my wife to Dr Ibironke Akinsete, who was then pegged down to lead the effort. By the time my wife came back from Calabar, she did not only come back with the baby, she came back with a new opportunity to be part of the Nigerian chapter of SWAIA. It was there that somebody came from New York and asked for any NGO doing something about reproductive health. Then my wife said there was one herself and her husband were pioneering with some of their friends, called Action Health Incoporated. She was excited that we had already undertaken some projects without funding. Today, everything is history. So from that point in 1989 to date, we have been here. It is not something I sat down to plan. It was something being suggested, then taking the leading and then something else happening. That was the pattern. And do not forget that I said providence played a major role. Today, we thank God that we are one of the foremost Nigerian NGOs, 100 per cent Nigerian and dedicated to Nigerians.

What are the major efforts you have made?

There are several efforts, but I will tell you a few. Nigeria today has a potentially robust response to HIV/AIDS in the education sector. Without sounding immodest, that story cannot be complete without recognising the roles this organisation has played. First, we started with the issue of sexuality education and when there was going to be a national consensus to call it Family Life HIV Education, we were in the driver?s seat along with government. In junior public secondary schools in Lagos State, over 350,000 young people have access to life enhancing scheme-based HIV/AIDS awareness education. Now, the thing has gone beyond Lagos State; it has gone national. Before then, in 1999, Action Health Incorporated collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health to organise the first National Conference on Adolescent Reproductive Health in Abuja. In the year 2009, we are also collaborating with the ministry to assess the national response to young people?s sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria. We believe that the findings of that collaboration will be nationally disseminated at a meeting to be chaired by the minister of health sometimes in June.

What has been the response of the Nigerian government?

Nigeria has a comprehensive response to the HIV/AIDS situation. Nigeria has a five-year national strategic framework in education. The response recognises two approaches: curricular approach and co-curricular approach. The curricular approach takes care of the lower primary to tertiary level, called Family Life HIV Education Curriculum (FLHE). Because of the sensitivity of emotion to the word sexuality, the word has been dropped. But Nigeria has taken forward what is referred to as life skill HIV/AIDS education. Nigeria has developed curricula to respond, but the implementation has been slow. But we are working with NACA to fast-track the implementation of the curriculum in six states, one in each geopolitical zone where there has been little or no support for implementation. As for the co-curricular approach, a lot of civil society groups are doing a lot.

How early do you think a child should know about sex education?

Every child should have the knowledge of body awareness as soon as they start to talk. For instance, a three-year old child needs to be told that some particular parts of his or her body should not be touched by just anybody without telling mummy or daddy. For that child, if anybody wants to sexually abuse him or her, by giving him or her sweets, he or she will remember that he or she had been told that nobody should touch that place unless mummy or daddy is told. I have heard of the case in a family where an uncle was having oral sex with one of the children who was purely innocent, simply because the parents never did their homework. So we need to look for creative ways of letting young people know that it is okay for uncle to hug a child but he should not put his mouth in a child?s mouth. All parents have a responsibility to do all that. When a child begins to ask questions like how babies are made, we should not shun him or tell him to shut up. The child is asking a very important question. If you don?t know what to tell him at that particular time, you should try and ask how much the child knows. If the child now says ?Uncle Ade says??, the parents should know that another person has started stuffing the child with something and that is the beginning of an incestuous relationship in the family. If a girl child of maybe seven or eight asks some questions, as a parent, you better begin to address that, because maybe somebody across the road has started telling her how beautiful she is. We have to probe to make sure that somebody has not started abusing the child who is purely innocent but vulnerable because the parents did not do what they were supposed to do. Parents need their capacity to be built to be able to communicate about sexuality with their children

Don?t you think the child will learn faster if all this is taught in school?

They are called legal minors because they can not decide for themselves. If the parents are not supportive, can the school radically impact? I have seen many parents come to me to say they need help, and those are just few. There are many more who need help but have not come out to say so. We need to help parents to particularly debunk the erroneous impression that when young people are asking questions, or exposed to information, that they become sexually active. No, it is not correct. Let me be honest with you, to the average young person, sex is not important; achievement is far more important to them than sex. They want to pass their exams. They want to be successful in life. They throw themselves to all that.

But there is this belief that a child who is exposed to sexuality education could become promiscuous?

You see, those are some of the fears by adults. I always tell adults that children don?t attach any importance to their sex organs more than what they use to pass urine. That is why they can afford to run across the street wearing just pants or nothing at all. It is a mischievous adult minded person that looks at that child and begins to see what their sex organs mean to them. The parents have the responsibility to prepare the child, for instance, menstruation when she is approaching the age of puberty so that she does not fall victim to wrong information elsewhere. I remember in those days when we were growing up, there was a young girl who was not endowed with big ---s that were commensurate with her age, and she was told erroneously that her ---s were not as big as her peers? simply because she was not sexually active. She was told that the more sex she had, the more her ---s would develop. Of course, she became sexually active. Not that she was promiscuous, but because of the wrong information she had. So, a young lady should be told that all ladies can not have the same --- size, but when the time comes for the ---s to fulfil their primary function, whether they are big or small, they will produce milk.

Do you think our religious institutions are helping matters regarding sexuality education?

Unfortunately or regrettably, many of our religious leaders have not taken a holistic understanding of the issues of sexuality, and until they do, they cannot respond. Sexuality is not about sex; sexuality is who we are and how we express or don?t express intimacy.

What efforts are you making to reach that sector?

You see, can one NGO do everything? We have taken a strategic focus to work on the health and wellbeing of the young people; working in the school system, providing opportunity for young people to come to our centre to share their thoughts, to advocate on their behalf. There is a limit to what we can do as a single NGO. We are not a media house or a newspaper house.

What will you say are the major challenges you have faced?

The challenges are diverse. The first is trust. The policy maker is an adult. He wants to look at you from a Nigerian perspective. He wants to know why you are even putting it on your head to advocate for young people. I had been with a commissioner of education in one of the northern states who disputed a report carried out by a national survey, saying that they are an Islamic state and therefore should have nothing to do with the survey; that their young ones could only be sexually active in marriage. In fact, he came to stop a training we were doing for teachers halfway. This was a training the state requested for. Sometimes because of where you come from or religion, they don?t trust you. Sometimes, they want to know who is sponsoring the project to know whether it was from an imperialist angle or for political motive. The other challenge is that the bulk of investment in this work that we have had access to is from outside.

Are you satisfied with what you are doing?

To be very honest with you, as I speak to you, I last consulted as a medical doctor more than five years ago. This is what I do everyday. The impact is enormous. I was the lead consultant to an activity in Botswana that helped the government and the people of Botswana to review their school health programme, and half of the population are in school. So if by my contribution I can improve the health and wellbeing of 50 per cent of that population, do you think I will not be happy? Honours have come in the course of this work. I am now a member of the international advisory board of a project called Partnership for Child Development that is housed in Imperial College, London. If I was sitting back on my table and making money by seeing one patient after the other as a medical doctor, I probably would not have been able to go that far. I am working with the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Education. I have access to ministers, based on my work and the organisation I belong to, and this provides opportunities for generations yet unborn. I am very happy. The beauty of this job is that I have also gone ahead to do a masters degree in public health. That is to show you that it is more of commitment.

You speak Yoruba fluently, yet you are from the South South. How did that happen?

I am a product of providence. My father of blessed memory was in the police force, and he served almost all his years in the then Western Region. Because he had a love for western education, he made up his mind early that all his children would attend school in Ibadan irrespective of where we were born. All of us schooled in Ibadan and he found a boarding house to put us from age six in the care of a Sierra Leonean, Mrs Cole, in Oke-Ado, Ibadan. The hostel was called Charity Hostel and there were four public schools in the neighbourhood of the hostel which everyone in the hostel attended. Literarily, I grew up in Ibadan and and after primary school between 1963 and 1969, I went to Methodist High School, Ibadan from 1970 to 1974. Then I went to St Charles Grammar School in Osogbo to retake my papers in 1975, and then to The Polytechnic, Ibadan where I did my A levels for one year and then proceeded to University of Nigeria, Nnsuka for medicine. I graduated in 1983.

You look like someone who left the university less than ten years ago?

You see, I still keep talking about providence. Part of the things I do also wherever I am, I try to do some walk every morning on a regular basis, and I drink a lot of water.

How was it like giving up a paid job?

Those who know me will tell you that once I believe in something, I throw in all I have. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I never for once knew that I would leave medical practice to do any other thing. In fact, it was not even in my calculation. In fact, my wife had to resign her job because of her involvement in the NGO work.

Why did a doctor decide to marry a journalist and not a fellow doctor?

I grew up in this environment, and when I went to the university, almost all my friends were from this part of the country. Of course, by the time I was in Ibadan Polytechnic, I joined the Palmwine Drinkers Club. That was my first social outing and it was rooted in the South-West. Later when my wife came to the university and we met, the name did not even matter, it was so natural because we could speak the same language, our value system were the same and that was it.

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SIMPLE WAYS PARENTS CAN EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT SEX
« on: April 25, 2009, 01:18:43 PM »

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Offline furtune

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Re: SIMPLE WAYS PARENTS CAN EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT SEX
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2009, 01:19:39 PM »
I want to believe that is simple as you said

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Re: SIMPLE WAYS PARENTS CAN EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT SEX
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2009, 01:19:39 PM »

 

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