“Train a child in the way they should go, and when they grow older they will not depart from it”
The backlash on the “condom for kids campaign” launched by President Uhuru is beyond inconceivable. This coming barely three days after the launch of the “No glove, No love” campaign in three universities in Nairobi was sort of timely. Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) runs a sexuality and reproductive health programme in partnership with WOSWA – University of Nairobi, Office of the Gender Affair Secretary – Kenyatta University and Office of Miss. JKUAT – Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. As Ticah, we realize the importance of including “safe sex” education as part of the campus sexuality programme because of the age of students who currently come into the university. The freedom that students get thrown into when they join campus is without consequences. Most of these students are very young and naïve. Then they get to the city armed with all the freedom in the world, half-truths and myths. In between lectures, assignments and group work they find themselves with a lot of time in their hands to explore the exploits of the sin city. No one is there to tell you how to use your time, you figure it out for yourself.
Sex education, if at all received was in primary and secondary where each word and demonstration was carefully calculated, with no room or confidence to ask the most burning and critical questions. There were several omissions for fear of bordering obscenity and perversion. However, there is need for age appropriate sexuality education as children grow up with additional information and build up as they progress into their teenage and adulthood. Young people should be made aware of the reality of irresponsible sexual behavior and the consequences associated with it.
The “No glove, No love campaign was therefore deliberately launched two days before Valentine’s Day to promote “safe sex” because it is the time that students tend to couple up. Gullibility that comes with the need to love and to be loved clouds many a judgment rendering some vulnerable to “team mafisi”. This valentine’s was incredibly long as pointed out by a student during the campaign. So imagine one fine gentleman going out of their way to show you love as never experienced before. Hot red bouquet of flowers delivered to your room. A box of Swiss chocolates, a bottle of red Fragolino Rosso, a huggly, snuggly teddy bear; a promise of warmer nights in the absence of prince charming and a card with a note of picking you up at 8.00 p.m. Forget how a fellow student came about that money or what they had to do to make this magical night happen. “You can’t possibly say no to that now, can you?”
8.00 p.m. on the dot, prince charming awaits outside your hostel in a yellow cab. You disappear into the twilight for a night to remember. Everything passes in a miasma, you are drunk in love and it’s time to retire for the day. You go back to this cozy hotel, one thing lead to another and in the heat of the moment, you ask your partner if he has a condom and he suddenly looks at you like you have two heads. Not only does he not have one but he doesn’t understand why you would even suggest that in the first place. Are you crazy! Now, you have two choices: make an exception — just this one time — and do it anyway or say “not tonight, bae.” And risk losing him if at all he was yours in the first place.
This whole condom thing is about standards more than anything else. Women especially always go back on their own standards to please somebody else. If your standard is that you won’t sleep with someone without knowing if they’ve been tested or before you’re on birth control, you’re only going to break it if you don’t have the confidence to uphold it. Maybe you’re worried about embarrassment of the conversation, confrontation in general, or you’re worried you’re going to lose him if you put your foot down. Author and Relationship Expert Mathew Hussey says that “Confidence is having that standard and competence is knowing how to speak that standard in a way that doesn’t make you seem annoying, over the top or aggressive. Knowing how to communicate and combining it with the desire to please and you have someone doing something they’re not really comfortable with.”
This campaign, just like the campaign launched by the President is not meant to encourage immorality as postulated by some adults during the campaign. Its main objective is to educate the primary target herein – university students the importance of sexual responsibility. We engage the students on their views and perspectives about their sexual and reproductive health, sexual gender based violence and healthy relationships. We provide safe spaces where together we discuss power in relationships and myth busts, negotiation for safer sex, consent, value of abstinence and good communication. We also try to create links with service providers and important contacts that can be used when in trouble such as the Dean’s office, Students Welfare Authority, Security office, Placement officer, Student’s Special Advisor, Nairobi Women’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre, Police Control room number just to mention a few.
We may continue to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the youth/young people are not having sex. And that creating awareness and advocating for safer sex is a tad bit immoral and perverting the younger generation, but the tough reality is they are, probably more than we care to imagine. What is the percentage of students joining university who are still virgins? What is the percentage of school drop outs due to pregnancy? Tell me please, since when is silence about a topic good teaching? Go figure and you just may realize that giving out free condoms is not such a bad idea. The silence treatment that surrounds sexuality and reproductive health is what ails our Nation. The society frowns upon individuals who are vocal about sex matters. That topic is taboo. We shy away from teaching our children about healthy sexual activities, and then we turn around and castigate people who make an effort to create awareness on such topics.
Me thinks, if parents took the time to candidly and freely speak to their kids about sex and sexuality or any other topic for that matter, no amount of condoms given to them would inspire them to engage in sex if that was not in their to-do list. I strongly believe that the more you know about an issue, the more empowered you are to critically weigh the pro and cons and thereby make good choices and even better decisions. The analogy of teaching your child about road safety, the danger of over speeding or drunk driving and the importance of always putting on a seat belt does not necessarily mean that they will take your car for a drive just because they are more knowledgeable about road safety. They must be of the right age, and should they get that car out for a drive, they would probably remember to put on a seat belt and that may just save a life or two.
Discussing and teaching your kids on issues that may seem too overwhelming or taboo may be embarrassing and awkward, but this exposure is critical in bringing up confident young individuals who can negotiate for better terms and articulate their points convincingly.