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“Young people today can’t be told to abstain”: Thoughts on sex-ed

In many parts of the world, the topic of sexual education remains controversial. However, as the evidence mounts, it’s becoming clear that proper sex education can play a pivotal role in preventing early pregnancies.

Rwanda, like many African nations, faces challenges related to early and unplanned pregnancies. According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS), around 7% of young women aged 15 to 19 had begun childbearing.

Early childbearing poses too many health risks to both the mother and the child, including increased risk of maternal mortality, infant mortality, and complications during childbirth.

While Rwanda has made commendable strides in many health and education parameters, there remains a gap in comprehensive sexual education. This is reflected in the experiences of many young Rwandese mothers we have spoken to.

Uwera Sylvie who gave birth at 15 says the man who impregnated her always told her that taking a plan B pill is a good alternative to using a condom.

She said, “Every time he would buy a pill for me he told me that it is better than using a condom. I was in Senior 2. No one had ever spoken to me about contraception. Had I known, I might have made different choices.”

Read also: Having been groomed by a man, Uwera became a child raising another child

Bosenibo Honorine, who got pregnant at 17 says the man who took advantage of her lied that he was using a condom while he didn’t.

She said, “Despite promising to use a condom, he didn’t.”

Read also: “He lied and didn’t use a condom”: I got pregnant at 17!

Contrary to the persistent myth, studies suggest that sex education doesn’t cause an increase in sexual activity among teenagers. Instead, it leads to more informed, safer decisions.

Studies globally have shown that comprehensive sex education helps delay the age of first sexual intercourse, reduces the number of sexual partners, and increases the use of contraceptives among young people. For Rwanda, this could translate to fewer early pregnancies.

Read also: Does Sex-Ed mean more sex?

Furthermore, there’s empirical evidence from other nations to back this up. Countries like the Netherlands, which have comprehensive sex education programs, boast some of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world.

In recent years, Rwanda has recognized the need for sex education. With the help of NGOs and governmental programs, several schools have started piloting sex-ed programs.

Uwimana Chantal, School Teacher in Kigali says, “Ever since we started our comprehensive sex-ed program, the students have been more aware. They come to us with questions, and it’s clear the program is making a difference.”

Blandine Nkusi, a university student says that being informed through sex-ed has greatly improved decision-making for some students.

She says, “Let’s face it, young people today can’t be told to abstain. I think comprehensive sex-ed can at least make sure that the decisions we make are safer and healthier.”

For Rwanda to effectively combat early pregnancies, it’s crucial to break taboos. Conversations about sexuality should be normalized. Parents, guardians, and community elders play a pivotal role in this.

School programs should also Integrate comprehensive sexual education into the national curriculum, ensuring consistency across all schools. Alongside education, young people should have easy access to various contraceptive methods and be educated on how to use them.

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