Victory Chant

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Mother and DaughterSex education. Everyone needs it, every preteen dreads it, and every parent sweats about how to handle it. Chances are, if you grew up in the school systems of the Western World, you may have colorful memories of grade one theories of how babies were made, the “ask anything” box at the front of the Health class in Junior High, or uncomfortable talks with your parents. Truthfully, we consider it our right to be informed on what our choices are, what we can do to protect ourselves, and the possible consequence of a rash decision along the way. After all, it’s our body and it’s our right – isn’t it?Front StepIn that sleepy little mountain village in Dominican Republic, nothing much happens too fast – except the obvious topic in question. Like most cultures, youth end up being sexually active at a young age. This is cause for concern in any culture, but when they are also without access to the basic means of survival, health care and education, it can become a lethal combination. It’s about more than their sexual activity: it’s about the pressures that girls face when they lack empowerment, and how the cycle will continue without intervention. Without knowing their rights, young women can be robbed of future opportunities, a healthy body, and even peace of mind.  Knowing all of this, we decided to do what we could. One fateful night, with eight Hero Holiday nursing students from Canada, we came to the community clinic that we helped build, to have our first ever “Sexual Health Seminar”. We had no idea what the response would be. Would the girls show up? Would they be brave enough to try to learn how to protect themselves? Would they even be allowed to be there?A few brave faces showed up. All of them under the age of 15, all of them nervous and wondering what to expect. The nursing students were determined to make this fun and memorable, as they each recognized that if tonight was successful, not only would these girls be better equipped to make wise decisions, but the community would respond to more opportunities such as this. “No pressure,” we warned them, “but you better be good!”Girls LaughingAttempting to break the ice with the girls, they spent a few moments joking with them and trying to gauge where they were at. In the world in which these young girls come from, it’s not easy to be female: many young girls end up having their first child before they reach 20, and an increasing number of them end up as single mothers. HIV and other STI’s are spreading at an alarming rate, and due to a low literacy rate, it is hard to find ways to educate girls on their choices and their health. How can you teach people who can’t write down what you are saying to be be able to recall it for the future?No problem! You give them visual aids (yep, we used a banana and a condom!), you give them laughter mixed with truth about their health, and then, you give them the best tool to remember everything: a chant! 
The team focused on teaching them that abstinence was the only sure way of staying STI-free. They told them that they have a choice to choose when and if they are going to have sex. In a culture such as theirs, women are rarely educated about the consequences of unprotected sex, and they are often left without the understanding that they have a choice. So, in an effort to make the concepts stick, one of our participants helped them to learn a chant that had the whole village take notice. At the end of the seminar, the girls boisterously shouted out “NO SEX! NO SEX!”  Their reasoning? That was the second half of the chant: “If you have sex, you will get pregnant, or you will get AIDS, and then you will DIE! NO SEX! NO SEX!”…I guess they got the point!!However, not everyone in the village fully appreciated our health seminar that night. Outside the clinic were some teenage boys…who looked pretty discouraged!!The global AIDS crisis has proven that it is without prejudice: rich and poor, literate and illiterate, young and old, male and female have all been victimized by its ruthless damage. However, being poor, young, uneducated, and female means you are among the most vulnerable. People do not get sick in the developing world because they are stupid or reckless; most often,they get sick because they lack the basic human rights of education, understanding and access to health care. This summer, Hero Holiday medical and dental students and doctors will be visiting this village and many others like it.  We need your help to make it possible to continue, and to be able to increase our reach. Together with the communities we are working in, we hope to help build a healthier future for the people who live there – because we all deserve it.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 21st, 2009