“As a parent, I shy away from having to talk about sex and feel so uncomfortable when my children ask me ‘where do babies’ come from. I know it is natural to feel uncomfortable trying to teach a child about sex, but why aren’t the schools helping out?”
One of the many questions asked by Liberian women who have children is, how can one talk to their children about sex? And in a recent report released by the Ministry of Gender, Development and Social Welfare, more than 50% of rape victims in Liberia are children.
With the rising challenge of being a female in an under-developed country, sex at a young age is one of them.
“My daughter is 12 years-old and is on family planning. It was my neighbor who told me that my daughter was having sex. I never knew,” added Massa.
Massa, who said she lost her virginity at a very young age, has never talked to her children about sex. According to her, she has seen her eldest son, who is 14 years old sneaks his girlfriend to their house on many occasions. Not once did she ever ask him what they were going to do.
“You see, I can’t talk to my children about sex, what do I say, that I was too young when I tried it my first time and that it’s part of nature?” she questioned.
The Government of Liberia and its partners, UNFPA on July 30, during their joint programming initiative meeting, highlighted the fact that there are more children exposed to sex than parents think.
“Teenage pregnancy is our main focus, because of the environment girls live; they think that it’s okay to start having sex early. If they live in a community where they think it’s acceptable, when someone with sexual advance abuses them, they don’t think this is wrong.
“Their perception of having sex early is very low. We have to deal with the mindset of the girls for them to understand that they are being abused. If you don’t talk about sex, then how will you talk to the girls to prevent them from having babies and catching AIDS/HIV if they don’t know about sex,” stated UNFPA staff Brian Kironde.
In Liberia communities, the topic of possibly having sex education taught in Liberian schools has been a topic of debate, and according to Brian Kironde, it is needed.
“Sex and gender based violence are a problem. As a parent, you should be able to talk about sex and prepare this girl about the challenge of sex and what will come out if she is not prepared. Girls spend more time at school than at home and I’m happy we have the whole focus area on education because that is where they spend most of their time,” he added.
“You can’t go to a school and tell them that you want to talk to their girls about sex, or the importance of contraceptives. But, if you keep the information and services then how will you be able to empower them with the information that will protect them against sexual based violence.
“Sexual education becomes important an avenue for which we can reduce issues of sexual based violence. Sexual education raises the awareness about the availability of services from health facilities, gender based information services, their rights and so on,” he added.
Meanwhile, parents living in the Caldwell vicinity say they are a little weary about allowing their children to talk about sex with strangers.
“There’s the issue of sex for grades. If a teacher who abuses girls already is given access to talk to the same girls about sex, he will abuse his platform and turn it into a physical thing rather than a class subject,” added Madam Helena Dorbor, a teacher at the International School of Learning.
For the time being, children need to feel sure about sex and comfortable with their own bodies. But children pick up so many bad perceptions of life from people outside of their families and end up confused and scared about sex.
So how important is sex education in Liberia schools?
“Talking with experience about sex to your child is the best way to make sure your child has a positive attitude to sex. Children should have some level of sex education at school. But this should focus on the genetic side of sex. This can be balanced by allowing the parents to discuss the more complex, emotional side of sex with them,” added Mrs. Dorbor