Would you rather talk to your children about family planning or deal with the consequences of abortion and forever live with the guilt? At what age should parents begin to teach a child about sexuality health? JULIET UMEH, in this report, suggests answers from experts and young people.
At age 33, Bimbo (not real name) is yet to have a stable relationship as she battles with the trauma of abortion and her parents’ failure to educate her on sexual reproductive health.
Sadly, Bimbo was put in a family way by her uncle at age 16 and her parents unanimously resorted to abortion.
Narrating her experience she said: “It all started when I saw my first menstrual cycle at age 14. My mother, a nurse, was a bit scared of teenage pregnancy and abuse, based on her experiences at work. She was over-protective so, rather than giving me the right information, she formed the habit of checking my private part to know if any man had ever touched me. She also taught me how to tick the calendar when my period starts and ends.
“So when I turned 16, my Daddy’s nephew who came for two weeks visit abused me when I was left alone with him at home.
“He issued a threat that I shouldn’t tell anybody otherwise he would kill me and kill himself. He asked if I want to die and I said no. He didn’t use any protection and after some months I missed my period, and I could not tell anybody because I was scared.
“It was a neighbour that called my mother’s attention to my condition because she wasn’t really focusing on me any longer as long as my menstrual cycle was being marked, as I was still marking it. So, when my uncle was confronted he denied and that scattered the family. My parents ended up taking me to a family doctor to carry out an abortion,” Bimbo narrated.
Although the pregnancy was terminate the action was certainly not free from complications.
“As I am speaking now, I am 33 years old. I am not married, I don’t have a child, but I am still dealing with the fact that I aborted,” Bimbo said.
“I’m having some medical issues which my parents and I are not happy about. Maybe, if I had not aborted at that time, I would have been married.
“With everything I went through, I became scared of men and I wasn’t giving guys any opportunity. The ones I even tried to give a room, I was always scared when they want to touch me because I kept remembering the scenes of the rape. I was kind of traumatized,” she lamented.
Research reveals that more teenagers are getting sexually active by the day, which many experts attributed to civilization. The National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013 shows that there are 122 births per 1, 000 women age 15-19 in Nigeria. Experts say mothers could help reduce this number by educating their children, at a tender age, about the use of family planning.
Recently, a village in Umunneochi Local Government Area in Abia State was thrown into perplexity when Blessing Madu threw her new born baby into the general pit toilet. Our correspondent reliably gathered that a farmer who was on the way to her farm had heard a baby’s cry and she decided to move to the direction of the cry. To her greatest surprise, the cry was from the toilet. She raised alarm quickly and luckily, the child was rescued as he was found lying backwards.
In an interview with Madu, our correspondent gathered that she acted out of ignorance because she didn’t want to keep having children as a single girl after having two boys already.
Madu obviously could be counted among the 16.1% who has unmet family planning needs. A chart with her proves that she lacked adequate knowledge of family planning. She said: “Someone has mentioned it to me but she did not explain it to me the way you have done. She didn’t also tell me where I could access it. I did not understand what she said.”
She vowed to look for a nearby Health Center where she can access family planning after the chat.
Meanwhile, while speaking on the topic, Introduction to Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health, at the recently concluded Two-Day training for journalists organized by the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, (NURHI) in conjunction with the Development Communication Networks (DEVCOMS), Blessing Ajani, Programme Officer for Youths and Adolescent Life Planning said there is a need for parents and guardians to stop hiding facts about reproductive health from their children because the resultant effect is always grievous.
Reports from NDHS 2013 reveal that the proportion of adolescents engaging in unprotected sex for male is 20% while women are 56%. Also the use of any modern FP method among young people15-19 years is just 9.4% for male and 4.8% for women while that of ages 20-24 years is 36.6% for male and 13.2% for female.
Above data could be seen as a clarion call to parents, unfortunately, all the parents who spoke to our correspondent failed in this duty. Further investigation reveals that 99. 9% of the youths who spoke got educated on their reproductive health through friends and teachers.
“My mother never told me anything,” says 25 year old Christie. “But as soon as she noticed I have started my monthly cycle she told me that I am now a woman and should not allow any boy to touch me otherwise I will get pregnant. From then on, I never come close or play with any boy because I was avoiding pregnancy,” she said.
Since time immemorial, parents have only focused on abstinence as a way of family planning but experiences have proven that abstinence is no longer working.
“There is nothing wrong giving young people all the information they needed. Talking to them about abstinence alone is half information because there are other family planning options available. Religious groups, parents, teachers, media since the foundation of the world have preached it yet isn’t working, why not say in the midst of all these, this is the information,” Ajani advised.
Talking about the age to start teaching a child about sexuality health, experts say the moment you start taking them to school and cannot be with the child 24 hours.
“Again, it is high time parent started calling body parts by their name like penis not banana or stick and that how to get pregnant is not when a boy sleeps with a girl but when he inserts his penis inside your vagina,” Ajani submitted. Similarly, DEVCOMS Director, Akin Jimoh also added that the teachings should start as soon as the child starts talking and asking questions.
Dr Edun Omasanjuwa, NURHI State Team Leader for Lagos State also advised: “Even if you don’t want to encourage them to take up family planning method, provide them information about their reproductive health. It is their right to know their reproductive system and how it works.
“As they grow into their teen you need to begin to let them know the consequences of sexual relationship. As they grow older you then begin to teach them the ways of preventing unintended pregnancy. Then they are better informed and when they get wrong information outside they can stand on their own feet and say no. That way you will be building more empowered youth,” he advised.