This year, Visuals for Gender is reaching out to Junior High Schools in Accra to talk the pupils about their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. On Friday, 22nd February 2019, the team had an insightful session with the pupils of Jewels of the Millennium School in Agbogba, North Legon. The theme for the event was, You, Your sexuality and the Law. Our aim was to sensitize these young ones on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The first session was led by the project coordinator, Madam Florence Toffa and the Communications Director, Princess Erwina Ndom. A video was screened to give the pupils a visual presentation of what puberty is and the physical changes that occurs in adolescents, undergoing puberty. We brought them to the understanding that, it was normal for them to go through puberty and experience its accompanying changes to their bodies, emotions and psychological make-up
Majority of the pupils agreed that at their age they were attracted to the opposite sex. Some shared stories on their experience with attraction to the opposite sex. Some also mentioned that they have noticed the different body features that boys and girls have and believe that is the cause of the attraction that exists between both sexes. They were made to understand that, getting attracted to the opposite sex was normal since it is the hormonal changes they undergo in their adolescent years. However, they were advised not to touch anyone inappropriately (especially members of the opposite) just because they were attracted to them. The pupils were made to understand that though they can be attracted to the opposite sex, there were also some adults who will be attracted to them and would want to get intimate in some ways. They were told not to allow anyone to touch them inappropriately because it was an infringement of their rights.
Mr. Pious Asante, a gender activist, also touched on sexual assault in the next session. He explained to them in simple terms what sexual assaults is. He again pointed out the myths concerning sexual assault and made them understand that when someone wants to forcefully touch them or have them do anything without their consent, it was wrong and a crime. He pointed out that, their bodies belonged to them and they were the only ones entitled to it. The pupils were encouraged to report to their parents or teacher or police or someone they trust if they ever encounter anyone who tries to sexually assault them.
The next talk was led by a student lawyer and youth counsellor, in the person of Alfred Eli Dei. He touched on Consent and the Law. He explained to the pupils from the provisions of the Constitution and the Criminal Offence Act (29) 1960 what consent is and how to protect their rights. In simple language, he made them understand that, consent is when you give permission to someone or something. The pupils were enlightened on the fact that, the law protects people who are sexually assaulted once they report. However, the law makes it clear that, anyone who is below 11 years cannot prosecute a perpetrator of a crime, this is why he suggested that they should report to their parents, guardians, teachers etc. Nevertheless, everyone was encouraged to report if they ever experience
any form of sexual assault. He further highlighted that, anyone who forcefully tries to have his or her way with another person is committing a crime.
The pupils were given the opportunity to ask questions. It was good to know how curious these young ones were and how it seemed they were eager to get answers to their questions. After, the students were given an assessment form to fill. The form is aimed at getting their knowledge on sexual assault and know if they have ever experienced any form of sexual assault. The questions required anonymity and the results will be collated and visualized.
The talk was very successful. We were impressed with how the pupils interacted with us. They were not shy about their knowledge about their sexuality and it was exciting to see how curious they were to know more. We believe this talk impacted their lives as they now have some level of knowledge about puberty, their sexuality and the law. If such sessions continue, these young ones will have deeper insight into their sexuality and issues on sexual assault. This will go a long way in influencing their attitudes, behaviours and their perceptions.