Sex ed important topic for young women
A unique summer health camp is arming teen girls with facts about sexually transmitted diseases and debunking myths and misinformation that lead some to participate in risky sexual behaviors.
The YWCA’s sexual health program teaches its teen participants, primarily black girls ages 14 to 18, how to make responsible choices about their sexual health and about their futures.
“They are like sponges when they attend our program. They’ve gotten misinformation from their friends and people their ages. They want to get the right information,” said Keshala Jackson, director of the YWCA youth and teen services department. “One of the myths we tackle is the belief that a virgin cannot get pregnant the first time or that oral sex is not sex.”
The curriculum covers anatomy, body development, delaying sex, abstinence and pregnancy prevention.
Jackson said many teen girls who attend the program, called “Sisters Informing, Healing, Living and Empowering (SIHLE),” said they get most of their information about sex from the wrong sources.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, six in 10 teens, 62 percent, in a 2010 survey of 1,008 teens ages 12 to 19 wished they were able to talk more openly with their parents about relationships. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The study also found that when it comes to talking to their teens about sex, parents don’t know what to say, how to say it or when to say it. The survey interviewed 1,000 adults ages 20 and up with a margin of error at plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Teenagers who remain misinformed about sex remain at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 9.5 million young people ages 15 to 24 are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease each year and 4 in 10 sexually active teen girls have an STD. In 2009, some 46 percent of high school students reported having had sexual intercourse, and 1 in 6 teen girls who are age 15 will give birth by age 20 according to the U.S. Department of Health.
The YWCA’s sexual health program will include sessions on gender and ethnic pride. A weightier session covers verbal and physical abuse, common sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS.
The sessions also include role-playing and a visualization exercise, “Visualize 25.”
“We talk about why some young people have sex and don’t protect themselves and how that can prevent them from reaching their goals at age 25,” Jackson said.
Teen participant Rebeka Gonzales, 15, completed the sexuality health program last week and recommended the program to her friends.
“Not being informed (about sex) can get in the way. When teens aren’t informed, they won’t be safe about it,” Gonzales said. She plans to pursue a career in medicine one day, she said.
Gonzales also said teens do want to know facts about sex.
“They do want to know, but they don’t want their parents to think that they are necessarily engaged in it just because they ask,” she said.
Prospective campers shouldn’t feel uneasy about attending the camp.
“They teach you how to be confident in yourself. They really break down touchy subjects that they want you to know about and they make it comfortable,” Gonzales said.
To enroll in a camp, contact Keshala Jackson, (225) 383-0681 or write firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://www.ywca-br.org.
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance reporter for The Advocate. She can be reached at chante email@example.com.