KNOWLEDGE about sexual reproductive health and rights can empower both parents and children to engage in healthy “conversations” about issues which are still considered taboo, despite advances in technology and access to information.
That was the general message given at an event - Ground Zero- hosted the Family Planning Association in collaboration with other non-government organisations on Wednesday.
The event held at the organisation’s clinic, referred to as De Living Room at Henry Street in Port of Spain, was in commemoration of International Youth Day (IYD) 2018 as declared by the United Nations. Celebrated on August 12, the theme for this year was Safe Spaces for Youth.
One was the activities at the event was an interactive session titled Talking Taboo in which three youths – Kimberly Gilbert, Khadijah Pierre and Kevin Lee a-Ping shared their perspectives about comprehensive sex education as it relates to people in the reproductive age.
“Knowledge is power. Knowledge is what people used in the past to suppress us. So, let us empower ourselves. Comprehensive sex education talks about interpersonal skills, interpersonal relationship, about sexuality and self-esteem and so on,” said Gilbert. She is a member of the Youth Advisory Group of TT and the Trinidad Youth Council.
She said much more must be done to educate people about healthy sexual lifestyles. She acknowledged that as part of the Education Ministry’s curriculum, there exists the Health and Family Life Education Curriculum.
“One component is sexuality. Often youths would google something, and not necessarily give the proper answer.”
She said: “I am that person who googles my symptoms and then wants to get a heart attack. Having a support system for parents is necessary for them.”
Pierre, Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) of FPAA suggested that a comprehensive sexual education is implemented in schools. “It is not about sex, sex, sex. The curriculum is wider than that, it touches on the interpersonal relationship, it also helps you to understand your sexuality.”
Pierre said that there is no evidence to prove that exposing children to sex education curriculum will lead them to engage in sexual behaviour. Lee- a-Ping, an entrepreneur and FPATT member, also expressed similar sentiments saying that sex education is generally not often discussed with parents to children but among peers.
FPATT executive director Dona Da Costa- Martinez said IYD is an opportunity for national agencies and local institutions to meaningfully address issues that hinder the positive advancements of youths.
In keeping with the theme, she said a safe space is one of refuge where youths and the vulnerable are assured physical and psychological safety. A safe space offers access to information and services without fear, judgement or negative consequences.
“We must collectively come to a place of realisation that it is only through open, compassionate and meaningful engagements we will be able to intensify our victory dances as we empower our young people,” Da Costa-Martinez said.
Talking Taboo, she said, is a production that focuses on the difficult sexual and reproductive health issues. “It is an opportunity to come face to face with our social realities, it is acknowledging the real issues that we must address,” she said.
The event was in collaboration with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, the International Planned Parenthood Education and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
FPATT’s projects coordinator Ava Rampersad told Newsday that De Living Room was designed as a living room space, in consultation with young people. The association offers services such as
HIV testing, pap smears, counselling consultations for contraceptive and any information relating to sexual reproductive health. This clinic’s office service hours are from 8 am to 4 pm.
“This is actually a safe space,” she said.