“I volunteer to be a speaker for this project because I’d like to arm fellow teenage girls with this knowledge so that they know how to protect themselves. I’ve led younger kids in playing games and got them thinking by asking questions such as:
“Should I have a boyfriend/girlfriend while I’m a student?”; “Will having a boyfriend/girlfriend impair my ability to study?”; “If my boyfriend asks to sleep with me, how should I say ‘no’ to him?”; “If I cannot control my urges, what do I have to do to prevent pregnancy?”; “What should I do if I’ve found out that I got pregnant?” and so on.
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.
Akha People’s Views on ‘Sex’
by Meeyoom Yaepieng
“Akha people don’t teach children anything about ‘sex’. We don’t even have the word ‘sex’ in our dialect. We only have words to distinguish men from women. Akha parents don’t talk with their kids about this thing because they believe that their children will know by themselves when they grow up and have their own family. Because I grew up in an Akha community, I absorbed their belief that ‘sex’ is a dirty subject and should not be talked about, especially if you are a woman. Meeyoom Yaepieng, Akha hill tribe descent, 12th grade student,and volunteer in the Palm Branch Home’s Sex Ed for Ethic Youths in Chiang Rai told.
“When I came to study in the city’s center, I had to stay at a dorm. I saw many things that were in conflict with our Akha value. Condoms are sold and displayed openly at almost every convenience store. Young people make out in public. Some teenagers even live together like married couples. I was confused between the Akha value that I had been taught and the urban realities that I saw around me. I wondered where is the line that separates ‘right’ from ‘wrong,’ and what distinguishes ‘appropriate’ from ‘inappropriate’? I was afraid to even tell or ask my parents. They both work in another country. We meet each other only twice a year so I do not want to say things that might worry them.
‘Sex’ Can Be Talked About.
“When I first attended a workshop on sexual-reproductive health, I was very embarrassed. My parents taught me that sex is something that you shouldn’t talk about in public because it’s an embarrassing and disgusting subject. But after attending the workshop organized by the “Sex Ed for Ethnic Youths” project, I learned that sex education isn’t just about physical intimacy. It includes a wide range of things like how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, how to look after the hygiene of your sexual organs, how to deal with physical and emotional changes that come with puberty, how to say ‘no’ to your boyfriend, how to prevent pregnancy, and how to deal with sexual urges. For example, instead of yielding to sexual demands or temptations, you should simply walk out of the situation or divert your attention to doing things that you enjoy such as sports, drawing, singing, playing musical instruments, or volunteering in a community service activity.
“I volunteer to be a speaker for this project because I’d like to arm fellow teenage girls with this knowledge so that they know how to protect themselves. I’ve led younger kids in playing games and got them thinking by asking questions such as: “Should I have a boyfriend/girlfriend while I’m a student?”; “Will having a boyfriend/girlfriend impair my ability to study?”; “If my boyfriend asks to sleep with me, how should I say ‘no’ to him?”; “If I cannot control my urges, what do I have to do to prevent pregnancy?”; “What should I do if I’ve found out that I got pregnant?” and so on.
True Love Can Wait.
“Personally, I think it’s better for teenagers to wait. We’re still studying and using parents’ money. I think if you are not physically, psychologically and economically ready, you should postpone physical intimacy. Parents work hard to earn money to support their children. If the daughter gets pregnant by accident, the parents will suffer the most. I’m lucky that my boyfriend understands my concern. We are both Christians, and Christianity forbids sex before marriage. Whenever I speak to an exclusively Christian audience, I always refer to this teaching in the Bible that physical intimacy should be confined within marriage, and that Jesus Christ would be displeased if you did otherwise. I think we own our lives first and foremost, and so we have to love ourselves first. It’s ok to have a boyfriend or girlfriend but there has to be limits. You don’t have to give up everything for him or her. A boyfriend is a boyfriend not a husband. No matter how much love he confesses to have for you, don’t always let him have his way. If a man truly loves you, he can wait.
Understanding Comes First.
“I used to look down on girls who got pregnant while studying. I couldn’t get why they did what they did. But after attending several workshops and activities of this project, I understood them. Now I have empathy for them and want to help them. Nobody wants unplanned pregnancy. But if it happens, we need to help find a solution so that the girl does not kill herself or take abortion pills. In most cases, it happens because the girl underestimated the chances of getting pregnant or she trusted her boyfriend too much. This project has taught me many things. I’ve learned not to judge people by what I see from the outside, to put myself in other people’s shoes, and to treat affected girls the way I’d like to be treated if it happened to me.
“I feel good about being a giver, sharing knowledge with fellow teenagers. Every time I talk with other girls, I get to remind myself of the lessons too. I used to be afraid of talking about sex even to a close woman friend. But now I can talk about it in front of a lot of people because I see it as an act of sharing knowledge. I’d like to tell people of my age that ‘love is a beautiful thing but it is not the whole of your life. If true love means taking care of each other for the rest of our lives, this waiting-while-you-are studying period is extremely short.”
PROJECT: The Palm Branch Home’s “Sex Ed for Ethnic Youths” project conducts educational workshops on sexual-reproductive health for middle-school and high-school hill tribe students at various non-profit dormitories in Chiang Rai province.
- “Know Your body” in which teens learn about the physical and emotional changes that take place as they enter puberty.
- “Choose A Side” in which teens learn that there are more than two sexes and to accept others regardless of their chosen sexual orientation.
- A sexual-reproductive health workshop in which teens are introduced to various types of contraceptive devices, how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, how to refuse physical intimacy, and the like.
- “I Didn’t Know & He Didn’t Care” in which the psychology of fear is applied in a simulation. One girl and one guy play the roles of a pregnant student and a boy who gets the girl pregnant, respectively. These two actors have to face condemnation and criticisms from other teens who play the roles of parents, teachers, fellow students, neighbors, religious leaders, dorm managers, and so on. In the end, everyone gets to practice working out the best solution for the worst situation.