Sex education for young people: the generational challenge

Out of modesty or cultural and religious stereotypes, many adults, especially parents, are ashamed to talk about sexuality with their children. For many, the sex education of young people is an incitement to depravity. However, scientific studies, health professionals and human rights defenders believe, on the contrary, that quality comprehensive sex education helps keep young people on the right track without forgetting that it is a great contribution to public health. “Although I know that today’s children already know everything about sexuality through the Internet and social media, I can’t talk about sexuality with my children. I’m ashamed and scared to encourage them to leave “, says Massan Diarra, a mother of 5 children, including 3 teenagers. Her opinion is not shared by this other mother, a 1st cycle teacher for whom it is important to talk about sexuality with her children. A way for her to warn them against the risks and dangers associated with early and uncontrolled sexuality. Chiaka Traoré, a local civil administrator, says: “Out of modesty, my wife and I had never talked about sexuality with our children, who were also well educated. I am 6 and 4 have finished their studies, 2 married girls and one of my boys. Thank God I had no particular problem. If I changed my mind and started having sex with children, it was because of one of our adopted daughters, who, apparently very wisely, ended up getting pregnant when she was just 15 years old. From then on, I talk about sexuality with children because my wife and I often welcome nephews and nieces who come to Bamako for their schooling or training. ”

Boubacar Diarra, president of the Network of Young Ambassadors for Reproductive Health and Family Planning in Mali, believes that comprehensive sex education enables young people to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexuality. “This contributes to their well-being, their health and their good education,” says Ms. Kéïta Mama Sy, midwife and clinical manager of the AMPPF (Malian Association for the Protection and Promotion of the Family).

According to him, young girls brought by their parents for VET needs receive counseling during counseling sessions. Boubacar Diarra explains that comprehensive and quality sex education not only allows young people to get to know their bodies better, but also helps them make informed decisions.

Nevertheless, adults remain reluctant to address the issue of sexuality with adolescents. “Our big challenge remains the understanding and support of parents, religious leaders and traditional leaders. Because many people think we will teach children about depravity. We only teach them sexuality in the sense of being more responsible, avoiding pregnancy. unwilling to avoid marriage before the age of 18, ”said Boubacar Diarra, whose challenge is to bring religious leaders, traditional leaders and some parents closer to his vision.

“It’s about making them understand that talking about sex education for young people and teenagers doesn’t mean emphasizing a scourge that is slowly destroying young people, making customary leaders understand that beyond customs and traditions, health matters more than anything, “admits the president of the young FP ambassadors.

For Khalilou Cissé of the Islamic Development and Population Network (RIPOD), Islam does not prohibit sex education for adolescents and young people. According to him, it all depends on how the issue is addressed. “As in our culture and tradition, sex education is given to children, but it all depends on how the issue is addressed. It is done in Islam as in our traditions, but not necessarily in the same way, ”says Mr. Cissé.

For Gogo Dicko, a traditionalist and bridal consultant, sex education for young people is an old tradition in our society. Accordingly, he cites initiation ceremonies and other traditional habits that support youth sex education. According to him, this task often fell to grandmothers, aunts, uncles and caste men.

Like Khalilou Cissé of RIPOD, Gogo Dicko argues that the issue must be addressed in accordance with the values ​​and sociocultural convictions of our country so as not to create social dysfunctions.

Mali has undertaken SDSR commitments in its constitution and national, regional and international commitments. In addition, Mali is committed to achieving the 2030 agenda of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), which commit states to appropriate the capture of the demographic dividend.

Khadydiatou SANOGO, This report is published with the support of JDH and FIT in collaboration with WILDAF-Mali and the OSC / FP Coalition

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