The incidence of student pregnancy during their school years occurs in many schools. Not only that, a number of children even face with such problems as sexual harassment in schools, and sexual assault or abused by people in their community or family. These problems are beyond the teens’ power to solve them on their own. And it is not that easy for them to seek help from someone or somewhere that are friendly enough. What should these teenagers do? And when this sensitive yet complicated situation like this occurs, how will the school administrators, teachers, parents and community members handle it?

UNFPA Thailand Country Office presses priority on youth leadership in demanding their sexual and reproductive health and rights to be protected and their accessibility to such services with special focus on the problem of teenage pregnancy. In 2014, UNFPA has awarded the grants to 15 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The purpose of these grants is for capacity development activities that will enable the CSOs to function as the supporter of future youth-led initiatives on the prevention of teenage pregnancy and/or the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.

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Joint Power to Cross over Gender Barriers in Schools

by Kritha Kaewpradit

Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women

“Mister! …. I’m pregnant,” called out an eighth grade girl coming in for a help. She was escorted by her student leader to meet with us after these students in the leadership program had done with their training to lead activities for the school-based “Seniors to Juniors” project.

The incidence of student pregnancy during their school years occurs in many schools. Not only that, a number of children even face with such problems as sexual harassment in schools, and sexual assault or abused by people in their community or family. These problems are beyond the teens’ power to solve them on their own. And it is not that easy for them to seek help from someone or somewhere that are friendly enough. What should these teenagers do? And when this sensitive yet complicated situation like this occurs, how will the school administrators, teachers, parents and community members handle it?

When real situations just like this occurs, the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women addresses the issues using the youth leadership project, comprising of four main missions as follows.

Mission One is the 4-day, 3-night Teenage Friendship camp. The camp was a training session to provide information on sexual health for 6 eighth graders from each school to get to know each other and build up the network. The target group in this camp consisted of 5 schools, each of which sent 6 eighth graders, 1 ninth grader, and 1 teacher, making 40 altogether. The teachers had chosen the students in transition to eighth grade by themselves as they were quite familiar with them already and could tell which ones had the potential to monitor their peers as well as to work with teachers. The trained student leaders would serve a 2-year term in helping their teachers in such work. The reason in recruiting senior students as mentors in the project was that we wanted to give them a platform to express themselves so that they could maximize their potential.

The event was held during school break in April. And after the training session, a web page, Teenage Friendship, was created for a handy communication with each other.

Mission Two is the Seniors to Juniors activity. This was the training sessions for student leaders who had acquired some knowledge in the Teenage Friendship camp so that they could transfer this knowledge to those in the junior years in their schools. These student leaders had to practice delivering activities to ensure that they would be able to communicate about sexuality correctly and accurately, with the Teenage Friendship staff, the ninth graders and the teachers as their coaching mentors. This rehearsal training activity lasted two months and a half (mid-May to the end of July) before each student leader could have a chance to fully express what they learned on the last day at the end of the training session. They were all impressed by the event as it helped them to actually practice, learn and understand the program as well as increase their confidence.

Mission Three is the Teacher-Student Joint Power platform. This activity was considered the new innovation in the field of work of the author. As mentioned at the beginning, this issue made us curious why that girl leader decided to discuss her situation with us (the outsiders), rather than her teacher leader (who is closer to students and trusted). It could be because she did not know how to tell the teacher. Or because her friend was afraid that she would get angry if she told the teacher her story. Or she did not understand the help process. Or was not confident that the teachers could really help. Or did not have a contact of teacher leaders. Or something else.

There were so many questions arisen. Yet, this was the loophole of the work to communicate about sexuality through leaders in schools.

The author had to reconsider and found the answer. Of all the current processes, there was nothing to inform the student leaders about the procedures to help those experiencing problems. There was also no understandable interaction between teacher and student leaders. The Teacher-Student Joint Power platform was then created for they could learn about the help procedures. In addition, the teachers and students had a chance to discuss their specific contexts to find further solutions together. This activity was held for one day only in August.

Mission Four is the skill enhancement and youth leadership empowerment. This period of time is considered appropriate to reinforce confidence and expertise of our student leaders. The activity was delivered by giving these teenagers time to review and practice leading activities more often so that they could even improve their performance further. It was held once a month, for 4 times, on Saturday or Sunday only, to spare their study time.

These four missions have been arranged for two years already. The Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women has been trying to cross over the sexual barriers in schools by connecting the collaboration of youth advocacy staff, teachers and student leaders. Our ultimate goal is to enable the country’s young people to overcome barriers and difficult situations in all forms of sexuality that are likely to occur at any time, as well as to become quality responsible adults.

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