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What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.


Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

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Motivated youth activists in Illinois are advocating for the passage of House Bill 3027, the Accurate Sexual Health Education Bill. Watch the video, and if you live in Illinois, support their efforts!


Categories: Sex Education
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Applications for the Spring 2013 Great American Condom Campaign are open!

Friends, we are once again searching for the most bold and visionary college students from around the United States to receive five hundred Trojan Brand condoms to distribute on their college campuses.

We select one-thousand SafeSites every semester to participate in this nation-wide youth-led grassroots movement to make the United States a sexually healthy nation. Each year, GACC members give out one million Trojan Brand condoms on college campuses across the United States, educate their peers about sexual health, and organize to improve the policies that affect young people’s health and lives.

What kind of ingenious plans will you come up with to distribute them this time? Condom lollipops? Condom scavenger hunt? Condom raffle tickets? Condom demonstration flash mob? Dress up as a giant chicken/duck/goose/platypus laying plastic eggs filled with condoms, candy and fun facts in strategic areas to welcome the spring? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

The application deadline is December 31st and it only takes about 10 minutes to fill out. Apply now!

Do it for your country.
PS – Check out the GACC Facebook page to learn more and see the amazing ways SafeSites are distributing condoms, educating, and organizing.

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Fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases like malaria is one the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) voted by the United Nation’s in the year 2000. Given that this fight seems to be slowing down and that more than 5% of Cameroonians are living with HIV/AIDS-60% of which are women and 40% falling in the youths category-there is a cause for concern on the strategy to be used for the achievement of MDGs.


Conscious that handicapped persons are also celebrated in December and given that living with HIV/AIDS is more and more considered a handicapped. This article is going to dwell on the inclusion of the handicapped in the achievement of MDGs.


Concerning the non-achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by most countries of the global south, much has been said and so much more left unsaid. But if there is one thing that has so often been ignored by policy makers, politicians and all those in charge of implementing policies that will lead to a timely  achievement of MDGs, it the absence of human rights in these goals. The non-inclusion of human rights in the MDGs means the exclusion of handicapped persons, indigenous people, and other minority groups in their achievement.


Given that handicapped persons constitute 10% of Cameroon’s population and are among the poorest people in the country, it is evident that talking of poverty, the fight against hunger, improvement of maternal health care and reduction of infant mortality child is pretentious if nothing is done to the more than 85% of these handicapped persons aged14-64 years who are jobless and the other 15% of them who are confined to shoe mending, shoe shinning and other informal sector activities.


Also, talking about achieving universal access to education without paying particular attention to the fact that less than 5% of handicapped children in Cameroon can afford to

go to school with only 2% of these handicapped children completing secondary school, is wishful thinking.  What about the  ever increasing number of albino children who because of their sight defect and the inability of their parents to buy them glasses drop out daily from school?


The government of Cameroon recruited 25000 certificate holders in 2011 under a special recruitment scheme. But none of them was an handicapped person and as if this was not enough, a good number of handicapped persons were sent away from public schools because they could not afford to pay the required fees. This despite the fact that they are officially exempt from the payment of school fees in public schools in Cameroon. To protest against the above acts, the handicapped organized a protest march in front of the prime minister’s office in October 2011 but were violently dispersed by the police and military forces.


Can we say of a country whose government carries out such horrible acts against its own very population, even if it achieves all the MDGs, that it is developed? Can MDGs be achieved if the strategy to achieve them is not inclusive? Can the achievement of MDGs, as they are now, lead to sustainable development?


My answer to the above questions is ‘NO’. Because I am intimately convinced that, unless inclusive and people-centered, no development plan can produce any sustainable results. It is high time for our government and civil society to listen to and amplify the voices of the handicapped so that they are heard and acted upon by policy making and implementing structures because like all poor people, “they long to belong to, and participate in their communities on equal footing with others. Most of all, they do not want charity. They want opportunity”, as former world bank President James Wolfehnson once put it.  Anything short of this will make the achievement of MDGs in Cameroon, even by 2035, a far-fetched dream.


How can one expect a country like Cameroon to achieve the MDGs related to literacy, health, and economic empowerment when it does not take the handicapped into consideration when designing and constructing public buildings and other infrastructure like roads, hospitals, universities, and schools?


How can one expect Cameroon to be democratic, united, and emerging by 2025,as exposed in its vision 2035,when more 10% of its population(handicapped persons) are disenfranchised due to their non-consideration when designing and producing electoral material(especially ballots) and situating polling stations(Most being inaccessible to the handicapped)?


Realizing that the above is impossible without respect for human rights, we, at the Education 4Development (E4D) have made human rights the 9th MDG and therefore one of the elements of our advocacy and awareness creation campaign on a participative, timely, and inclusive achievement of MDGs in our community. Through our MDGs participative achievement programme, we reached out to more than 1000 pupils and students in 2011 and look forward to reaching out to a greater number in 2012.


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Just in time for World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a Blueprint for Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation.  The Blueprint lays out four “roadmaps” that will guide the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—the U.S. government’s global AIDS program—as it continues to provide life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support programs around the world.

The four roadmaps—saving lives, smart investments, shared responsibility, and driving results with science—are based on the following five principles:

  • Make strategic, scientifically sound investments to rapidly scale-up core HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions and maximize impact;
  • Work with partner countries, donor nations, civil society, people living with HIV (PLHIV), faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations and multilateral institutions to effectively mobilize, coordinate and efficiently utilize resources to expand high-impact strategies, saving more lives sooner;
  • Focus on women and girls to increase gender equality in HIV services;
  • End stigma and discrimination against PLHIV and key populations, improving their access to, and uptake of, comprehensive HIV services; and
  • Set benchmarks for outcomes and programmatic efficiencies through regularly assessed planning and reporting processes to ensure goals are being met.

Overall, the Blueprint is surprisingly strong, especially in light of the fact that over the past few years, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC)—the office responsible for administering PEPFAR—has done a lackluster job on young people and focused its rhetoric almost exclusively on biomedical approaches such as voluntary male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), and treatment as prevention.  While vitally important, these three strategies alone are not, and never will be, nearly enough to address all drivers of the epidemic, particularly as they relate to young people who continue to account for over 40 percent of all new HIV infections around the globe.

Among the many positive attributes of the Blueprint are its intentional focus on women and girls and key affected populations including men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and people who inject drugs (PWID).  No plan would be complete without recognizing the critical importance of addressing the structural drivers of the epidemic, including gender inequality, violence, poverty, stigma, discrimination, and other legal barriers to services, all of which disproportionately impact women, girls, and key affected populations. To address those barriers, the Blueprint specifically calls for improving girls’ access to education, increasing economic opportunities for women, preventing and addressing gender-based violence and exploitation, engaging men and boys in addressing norms and behaviors, repealing laws that criminalize people for who they are or who they love, and supporting the human rights of women, girls and LGBT populations.

In addition, supporting women—both HIV-positive and negative—to plan their families is a key pillar of the Blueprint, recommending increased access to voluntary and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services with a range of contraceptive options including male and female condoms, counseling and referrals, and integration of and linkages between FP/RH and maternal, newborn and child health as well as HIV/AIDS and programs serving orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).  Integration is vital for helping women and young people receive information and services in one location, and it’s great to see it interwoven throughout various sections of the Blueprint.  However, continuing to rely solely on USAID to supply contraceptives places severe limits on the ability of women and young people to protect themselves and plan their families.  If a young woman lives in a PEPFAR-funded country where USAID has no presence, what then?  How does she access other forms of contraceptives, particularly if her partner refuses to use condoms, the only form of contraception supported by PEPFAR?

What about the other needs of young people?  How do they fit within the Blueprint?  For starters, there is a section, albeit somewhat short compared to other sections, that specifically focuses on strengthening programmatic commitment to and emphasis on reaching and supporting young people with HIV services. The fact that the youth section appears in the roadmap on “smart investments” should not be overlooked.  Perhaps PEPFAR is now seeing what we’ve long known—that investing in young people is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

So what does this youth section say? First, it says that PEPFAR will work with partner governments to develop age-appropriate, evidence-based curricula for use in schools, while working with parents, communities, and implementing agencies to reach out-of-school youth. Secondly, it recognizes that education, alone, is not enough and that a comprehensive package of programs needs to be specifically tailored and targeted for sexually-active and at-risk youth.  Third, it calls for special attention to be given to young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) as they transition to adulthood, seek youth-friendly HIV care and treatment programs, develop sexual relationships, and plan their own families. Fourth, the Blueprint prioritizes better monitoring to track services utilized by YPLHIV and evaluation of PEPFAR-funded youth programs to identify the most effective interventions for young people.  And lastly, PEPFAR for the first time ever, explicitly recognizes that the key affected populations of MSM, sex workers, and PWID also include young MSM, young sex workers, and young PWID, thereby requiring programs to be designed that specifically address their needs in an accessible and acceptable manner.

In addition to a specific section on youth, adolescent girls and young women are also prominently highlighted in the section on women, girls, and gender equality.  Given the fact that this population is often invisible in larger gender programs, the Blueprint rightfully acknowledges the need for stronger surveillance efforts to ensure that adolescent girls and young women are adequately represented.  Going one step further, the Blueprint finally requests “to the extent feasible” that data be disaggregated by sex and age in all health service programs, including those serving adolescent girls and young women—something Advocates for Youth has been requesting for years.  Furthermore, PEPFAR is tasked with adopting evidence-based best practices in youth-friendly health care and services, including supporting positive youth development approaches for in-school and out-of-school youth, developing specific programs for adolescents and pre-adolescents including boys and married adolescent girls, working with communities to change attitudes around child marriage, preventing and responding to sexual abuse and coercion, and increasing access to economic strengthening and educational resources.

While the Blueprint makes great strides in the U.S. response to HIV and AIDS, it is not without its shortcomings. Evidence- and rights-based comprehensive sexual health education is critical for young people, but the Blueprint fails to state whether the education it calls for is comprehensive, rights-based, or LGBT-inclusive.  Furthermore, while a comprehensive and tailored package of services and programs for youth is needed, the Blueprint makes no mention of what that package might look like or why it seems to be restricted to those young people who are already sexually active or considered at-risk, rather than to ALL young people.  The same can be said for access to male and female condoms, which also is limited to those who are already sexually active.  And despite very strong language in other sections requiring the active engagement of PLHIV, key affected populations, and civil society in the design, implementation and evaluation of HIV programs, there is a complete and utter lack of attention to meaningfully engaging young people and YPLHIV in youth programs.  Engaging parents, guardians, and influential adults, yes, but young people themselves, astonishingly not one mention whatsoever!

In her remarks, Secretary Clinton stated, “Now, make no mistake about it: HIV may well be with us into the future. But the disease that it causes need not be.” In order for that to be absolutely true, we can and must do better by our young people. We must ensure that programs for young people are comprehensive, evidence- and rights-based, and inclusive of the diversity of youth.  We must move away from segmenting youth into artificial categories based on real or perceived notions of sexual activity or level of risk and provide ALL young people with the information and services they deserve and need. We must allocate sufficient resources—financial, technical, and human—to best address youth within the HIV pandemic.  And we absolutely must ensure that young people themselves are meaningfully engaged in all program and policy decisions impacting them.

Young people have the right to accurate and complete sexual and reproductive health and HIV information and services. And the U.S. government has a responsibility to respect young people and provide them with the tools they need to safeguard their sexual health.


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Sextivist I may be, but I’m not a total “sexpert.” Since this blog is fairly new and seeks to provide very specific information about a range of sexy topics, I thought I’d get the basics covered. To do that, I enlisted the help of Dr. Keith Abrams, licensed clinical psychologist and sexual health educator. Dr. Abrams has provided sexual health courses I have taken as part of my high school curriculum at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. These courses covered a wide range of topics from STI’s to theKinsey Scale. Most sexual education in the U.S. is “abstinence-only” and does not provide adequate (or even accurate) information about many aspects of human sexuality, including contraceptives. I hope that these basic questions and answers will help you and if you’d like more of the sex ed you’ve probably been denied, click here. Or if you’d like to help fight for sexual health rights and education in your community click here.

And now, I hope you’ll here what the good doctor had to say…


Barry R. Method: What are some of the most common problems people have regarding sex? How can they be solved?

Dr. Abrams: A lot of problems are due simply to the lack of information that people possess about sexuality. Just because we have access to information via the Internet and books doesn’t mean that people make an effort to find it, or know what sources of information are credible. I tell people that I am amazed by how little I knew about sexuality at the time I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology. It was only when I immersed myself in the study of sexuality at PHS did I feel like I was well educated in that subject.

Secondly, a lot of sexual problems are really secondary to problems in one’s relationship with one’s partner. It’s very difficult to enjoy your sexuality if you’re not happy with your relationship. Finally, a great many people find it difficult to talk about sexuality issues with their partner(s). There is no substitute for direct communication about sexual relationship issues.

So, most “problems” related to sexuality can be solved by educating  oneself, putting in the effort to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner(s), and being willing and able to communicate about sexuality with your partner(s).

Barry R. Method: What tips can you give young people about advocating for these things within their peer groups?

Dr. Abrams: I would encourage peer groups to advocate within their schools and religious organizations for the creation of sexual health education programs that are scientifically sound, as well as advocate for the right to establish sex-positive support groups like a GSSA (Gay-Straight Student Alliance) campus group.

Barry R. Method: Why are these issues so important to you?

Dr. Abrams: I am very passionate about the importance of emotional health, sexual health, and healthy relationships in our lives and I feel that our society does not emphasize these issues enough. In particular, our society needs to do much better in the area of sexuality and sexual health education generally. We all have an intrinsic desire to be happy, have healthy, meaningful relationships, and enjoy our sexuality. Helping people achieve those goals is very rewarding.

Barry R. Method: If you could tell young people one thing about sex, what would it be?

Dr. Abrams: We are all sexual beings, sexuality is a core part of who we are, and we all want to be able to enjoy our sexuality throughout our lifetime. So, remember that “ignorance is NOT bliss” when it comes to sexuality; rather, “knowledge is a good thing”, thus educate yourself by talking with parents and caregivers, advocating for/taking sexual health education courses in high school, and then take a human sexuality course in college.

[Dr. Keith Abrams is a licensed clinical psychologist who works primarily as a private practice clinician in the Homewood (AL) office of Grayson & Associates. His primary specialty is sexuality and relationship issues. His other work has included a 2-year, full-time, post-doctoral fellowship at the Program in Human Sexuality (PHS) in Minneapolis, teaching a “Human Sexuality” course at Samford University for the past 10 years, and teaching sexual health education courses at the Alabama School of Fine Arts for the past several years. He also spends some of his time giving talks/presentations on issues related to sexuality and relationships for both public and professional audiences.]

Categories: Sex Education
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I want to take a moment to discuss a few of the things I’ve learned so far as an advocate for reproductive health rights.  Things that people might not think about if they don’t understand the intricacies of our fight.  I consider myself fairly new to the movement, so my education in the ins and outs of this fight is on-going.  I have lost count of the number of times in the past few months I’ve stopped and thought to myself, “Wow.”  There are a lot of sides to the field of reproductive health, rights, and justice that tend to go unnoticed or unconsidered by the masses; I know that was certainly happening in my life pre-AA4HY.  So here are just a few of my new perspectives:

  1.  “Traditional” abstinence-only sex education is not inclusive of LGBT students.  This might sound like a no-brainer to some of you, but I hadn’t ever considered the issue from that angle before getting involved with this field of work and having someone explicitly point it out.  I’m fairly confident that I am not the only person who had failed to take this into consideration, which makes me that much more committed to spreading the word and gaining support for comprehensive sex education.  After all, how are you supposed to preach “Wait until you’re married!” to people who are not legally allowed to get married?
  2. Parents are more supportive than you might expect.  I think this misconception arises from the awkward stigma surrounding the “sex talk” with your parents.  It’s pretty easy to associate your parents with being anti-sex; I know my mother certainly pushed hard with the whole “wait until you’re older” spiel.  Parents don’t want their teens having sex because they don’t want to risk the unfortunate consequences marring their kids’ childhood, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want us to be prepared.  Most parents recognize that we as young people need to be armed with the knowledge to make smart choices when the time comes.  The problem here is that the parents who are most vocal are the ones who support abstinence only education.  Yeah.  That needs to change.
  3. Sex ed in schools is completely ridiculous.  But really.  My health class in high school didn’t even touch on sex ed, so I honestly had no idea how bad things were until getting involved here.  I mean, how is showing students pictures of scary genitalia supposed to help them in life?  And have you seen those videos with the animated bears?  Good grief.
  4. Politicians have no idea what goes on in a woman’s body.  And they’re the ones in charge of making the decisions about what we as women can and cannot do…I don’t know about you, but that definitely does not sit well with me.  I guess this just serves as further evidence that the school system in our country is failing when it comes to teaching things like sex and reproduction.
  5. Seventeen magazine is surprisingly usefulSeventeen was kind of like my Bible back in high school.  I subscribed mostly for style inspiration, but I would also faithfully read through the health section.  As I mentioned in point #3, I didn’t have sex ed in high school; my mother talked me through the basics of how reproduction works, but my information on things like birth control came from other sources.  Which I think is the point I’m trying to make about Seventeen – you may primarily think of the magazine as a fluffy publication for teenage girls to look at pictures of clothes and hair and whatever (I know I certainly did for the longest time), but its value as a resource runs so much deeper.  Seventeen talks through things like using condoms, and different forms of birth control, but it also emphasizes the emotional consequences of having sex.  It gives a voice to girls of all sexual orientations and genders. 

Categories: Sex Education
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Tomorrow is World AIDS Day (December 1, 2012).  It is day of remembrance and spreading awareness.

HIV awareness is important to me because I am a Peer Health Educator and care that others do not have access to information that they can use to make informed decisions about their sexual health.  Also, on a personal level, I know people who are HIV positive and are healthy because they have access to treatment, and because they had prior knowledge about HIV and what it means to live positive.

As young people we need to Act Aware by:

Getting informed about how HIV is transmitted, prevented and treated.

Speaking up and have open dialogue with our friends, family, and representatives about the importance about the importance of HIV Awareness and Services.  Specifically on how Comprehensive Sexual Health Education can inform young people about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections/diseases.

Practicing safer sex by communicating with your partners about condom usage (or other barrier methods), getting tested regularly, and by having open communications about your HIV status with (or other sexually transmitted infections/diseases) with your partners.

Getting tested regularly to know your status is important step in preventing the spread of HIV.

Getting treatment if you are HIV positive .  There is no shame in living with HIV.  A person with HIV can live a long, happy and healthy. Being treated for HIV can also help in preventing the spread of HIV.

Act Aware because HIV prevention is possible and it starts with you.

Act Aware by getting involved!


Find Your Representative  (How to find out who your representative so you can tell them why HIV Awareness is important)

CDC: HIV/AIDS (CDC information of HIV/AIDS)

MTV HIV Awareness (Mtv provides HIV Awareness)

AIDS (The US Government providing information on HIV/AIDS)

World AIDS Day UK (International HIV Awareness Efforts)





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On November 29, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the government’s lead agency delivering foreign assistance to more than 100 countries around the world—officially launched its first-ever Youth in Development Policy. The policy, which has been posted on the USAID website since the beginning of November, provides the agency with important guidance recognizing young people as a driving force in global development efforts.

Nearly two years in the making, the policy seeks to strengthen youth programming, participation, and partnership while mainstreaming and integrating young people throughout all of the agency’s policies and programs. Such mainstreaming is critical because, while USAID supports some youth-focused programming, in the health sector for example, these efforts are often small-scale, short-term pilot projects that are limited in reach.  In addition, broader initiatives that should be addressing young people’s needs do not necessarily do so unless there are youth champions within the agency or among implementing agencies who seek to proactively prioritize youth within the programming.

This policy has the potential to impact real change on the ground for young people by systematically integrating and mainstreaming youth while also engaging them in policy decisions. Whether it’s providing critical family planning information and services; promoting democracy, human rights, and gender equality; increasing employment and civic engagement; or delivering life-saving assistance following humanitarian disasters, every facet of USAID’s development agenda could (and in my opinion, should) include youth as a key component.  In order to achieve this, the policy includes seven key principles:

  • Recognize that youth participation is vital for effective programs;
  • Invest in assets that build youth resilience;
  • Account for youth differences and commonalities;
  • Create second chance opportunities;
  • Involve and support mentors, families, and communities;
  • Pursue gender equality; and
  • Embrace innovation and technology by and for youth.

The fact that there exists a youth policy at all, let alone such a multifaceted one, is certainly commendable.  Furthermore, the extent to which it highlights young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs, including the prevention of unintended pregnancies, early marriage, and gender-based violence, is a positive development given the fundamental role sexual and reproductive health plays in all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.  In addition to strong language on health, the policy also explicitly recognizes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, as well as the importance of pursuing gender equality and connecting with hard-to-reach populations, including young migrants and refugees, out-of-school and street youth, rural youth, married adolescents, and young people with disabilities.

No government policy is perfect, however.  While this policy has made strides in promoting a more holistic and positive approach to youth, it lacks the teeth required to achieve its full potential.  No additional funding is set aside to implement it and no mandate is given requiring the agency’s overseas missions to follow it, leaving it largely up to the discretion of individual missions and staff to decide if they have the time or interest in prioritizing youth.  Without such mechanisms in place, the policy is just a piece of paper sitting on a shelf.  In order to bring it to life, we need to get past this idea that doing youth work is too hard, that young people are too difficult to work with, don’t care, aren’t engaged, or don’t have the knowledge or experience to make change.

We cannot continue to let governments and others perpetuate the fear-based notion that, left unaddressed, youth will wreak havoc on communities and nations.  We must remember that young people do not instigate civil strife and conflict; weak political systems do. Young people do not promote extremist ideologies; oppressive government policies do.  Young people do not fuel crime sprees; inequitable distribution of resources and economic stagnation do. Young people are not the problem, they are the solution.

They have proven that they are resilient, innovative, and powerful agents of change who can achieve significant policy advancements when they work in conjunction with local, national, and regional stakeholders.  Nepalese youth activists supported by Advocates for Youth and our local partner, YUWA, have successfully lobbied government officials to change Nepal’s national sex education curriculum to better reflect the needs of youth.  After years of effort, Advocates’ youth council in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), won its campaign to have the Federal Ministry of Health create a stand-alone budget line in the national health sector budget that is specifically dedicated to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health funding.  And, the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) is working with the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for adolescents living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.  Involving young people and key stakeholders in their communities in these processes not only leads to innovative programs, it also increases success rates, while further helping young people build skills in communication, negotiation, and civic participation.

While young people have made tremendous progress in advancing their rights, they cannot and should not do it alone.  National governments and the entire international community must not only recognize the rights of youth and respect them as equal partners and rights-holders, but they also have a responsibility to prioritize youth within all their development policies and programs.  The USAID Youth in Development policy is one step in the right direction.

With nearly half the world’s population under the age of 25, a government policy recognizing the pivotal role young people play in the development of their communities, their nations, and the world is long overdue.  The current and future direction of this planet will largely depend on how well we educate, empower, and engage the largest generation of young people in history.  In no area is this of more paramount importance than in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights, where education, health, self-determination, and human rights intersect to create the foundations for healthy decision-making.

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This piece was originally published in the Harvard Crimson by Reed McConnell and Kate Sim. Reed and Kate are Advocates for Youth Campus Organizers through the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective (IWRC)


Angie Epifano’s recent account of sexual assault at Amherst College brought national attention to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. In an article, she described reporting her sexual assault to the Amherst administration and the administration’s egregious response to her case—which included institutionalizing her against her will and refusing to allow her to study abroad, all while making no effort at all to punish her rapist.

At about the same time, we joined with other Harvard students to start a campaign on campus called Our Harvard Can Do Better. To encourage Harvard to re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices, the campaign put a referendum on the recent Undergraduate Council ballot calling for reform in sexual assault policy. The overwhelming student support that this referendum generated (it passed with 85 percent of the vote) suggests that undergraduates are alarmed at aspects of Harvard’s policy, including the use of the phrase “mental incapacitation” without an explanation of exactly what this means and Harvard’s lack of a policy of affirmative consent.

However, while the referendum was mainly policy-driven, what lies at the heart of sexual assault issues on campuses everywhere is the ubiquity and persistence of rape culture, a societal attitude that delegitimizes sexual violence and predisposes people to excuse rapists. Furthermore, this culture creates a general understanding of sexual violence that is limited to heterosexual relationships, thereby delegitimizing non-heterosexual violence. Unfortunately, rape culture is an inescapable aspect of American life today.

A central feature of rape culture is that the main burden of rape prevention is put on potential victims rather than on potential perpetrators, and alleged instances of this can be found on our campus. For example, Johany Pilar, who works in the Freshman Mailroom, told students and coworkers last month that she was sexually harassed at work. Pilar says that when she reported this, she was told that it was probably because she gave too many hugs. This is a prime example of victim-blaming, which happens when people suggest that victims are assaulted because they have not “done enough” to prevent assault. This focuses attention away from the fact that the aggressor acted by their own volition. And unfortunately, stories like Johany Pilar’s—stories that demonstrate the ways in which sexual assault is normalized and explained away in our society—are all too common.

Rape culture is real at Harvard, and is perhaps even more pervasive on campus due to Harvard’s history as an all-male institution. We reinforce rape culture through the ways that we conduct ourselves every day, especially through our language. Trivializing rape with phrases such as “that exam raped me” subtly changes our understanding of sexual assault so that we think of it in a lighthearted way, and strips the word “rape” of much of its meaning until it does not reflect the enormity of the violence that so many experience. This trivialization, in turn, contributes to a culture that does not acknowledge the presence of rape in our communities—leading us to question the veracity of victims’ experiences.

Furthermore, saying things that express public or male control of people’s bodies, especially women’s, shifts the way that we understand bodily agency. People subtly reinforce the idea that women’s bodies exist to be commented upon and dominated through everyday speech. For example, they might tell a woman that she should be grateful when a stranger on the street comments on her body, criticize women for wearing either not enough clothing or too much clothing, or suggest to men that the only important outcome of an interaction with a woman is whether they sleep with her. Statements and suggestions like these cause women to feel less autonomy over their bodies, and pressure men to speak about women in a way that implies domination and conquest on their parts. This distortion of our public understanding of who has control over bodies, and to what level they hold that control, is another important way in which rape culture is reinforced.

We all perpetuate rape culture when we fail to speak up against victim-blaming and slut-shaming comments. However, the fact that we all reinforce this culture means that we also can all take part in dismantling it.

Next Tuesday, there will be a rape culture speak-out, a gathering of people dedicated to creating a safe space in which they can share their experience with rape culture and listen to the voices of others. Our hope is that the speak-out will provide an opportunity not only to validate our experiences but also to demonstrate the solidarity and support that we feel for each other. The speak-out will allow us to recognize that our experiences with rape culture are not isolated incidents, but rather a collective struggle. We hope that through hearing these personal narratives of pain, struggle, and resistance that are so often silenced, students at Harvard will begin to rethink some of their behaviors, and that we can all move toward a common discourse and set of behaviors that are conscious, thoughtful, and productive in dismantling rape culture.


Reed E. McConnell ’15 is a social anthropology concentrator in Quincy House. Kate Sim ’14 is a joint social studies and studies of women, gender, and sexuality concentrator in Quincy House.

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World Ball 2012 // Welcome to the North Pole

Join Metro TeenAIDS, RealTalkDC, STIGMA, SMYAL, Sasha Bruce, and the Latin American Youth Center for a night of competition, prizes, and voguing. This is your chance to compete in 15 categories, win a prize, and snatch a trophy!

The event will be hosted at the Eastern Market North Hall

225 7th Street, SE
Metro: Eastern Market (Blue/Orange Line)
7:00PM – 11:00PM
Friday, December 7th, 2012

Open to ALL YOUTH aged 13-24 years old.

Special Guests:
DJ Tony Playboy
Commentator Taye

Performances By:
Team Playboy


To gain a FREE entrance pass to the Ball, you will need to get tested at the following locations:

Metro TeenAIDS
651 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Testing Times: 12-8pm (Mon-Fri)

410 7th Street, SE
Testing Times: 3-5pm (Mon-Thurs), 3-6pm (Fri)

Sasha Bruce
701B Maryland Ave NE
Testing Times: 11-8pm (Mon-Fri)

1419 Columbia Road, NW
Testing Times: 3-6pm (Mon – Thurs)

Youth can get tested between now and December 7th or at the actual event. We recommend getting tested prior to the event to skip the lines! Youth who chose to not get tested for HIV can enter the event for just $5.

All youth who are tested for HIV will receive a FREE entrance pass and be entered into a raffle for a $25 gift card (10 winners total!)



1. Virgin:
Runway- Green and White effect
Vogues- Red and White effect
2. Realness (OTA)
Bring it in a North Pole effect
3. Runway
European- Jack Frost
All American- Nutcracker
Female Figure- Ice Queen
4. Face
Holiday Paint
5. Hand Performance (OTA):
Blue or White gloves
6. Performance (OTA):
Female Figure – All White effect
Butch Queen: Santa’s Elves vs. Realness with a Twist: Reindeers
7. Tag Team:
Runway of 2 (1 Female Figure & 1 All American)
Female Figure- Snow Angels
All American- Snowman
PERFORMANCE (1 female figure & 1 BQ/ RWT)
Female figure- Ms. Claus
Butch Queen or Twister- Mr. Claus

The winner of each category will receive a $25 gift card and a World Ball 2012 trophy!

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Education is one of the cornerstones on which any development worth the name is built. The growing acknowledgement of this fact has led to the emergence of many nations in our world today. But the fact that education has become an item at the top of the agenda of major international bodies and policy formulation processes is not enough. The efficiency of the educational system is an important aspect of quality education that is most often neglected by educational authorities and policy makers in Cameroon. In fact, many now believe that our educational system more than any other thing  is the cause  of our problems.

If the educational system in Cameroon is as inefficient as it is, more inefficient even has been sex education in primary and secondary schools. Sex education in schools in Cameroon has been so inefficient that the government had no choice   but to acknowledge this and take necessary measures to correct the failings of sex education in Cameroon.

Introduced by Cameroon’s government through a ministerial decree on the 18th of January 2007, Education on Family life, Population Issues, HIV/AIDs has been implemented in Cameroon’s schools only since September 2012. To build the capacity of teachers and correct the failings of the abandoned approach to sex education, a series of Radio programs have been organized by ministries in charge of education and health in Cameroon alongside UNAIDs. Through active and collective listening of these programs by teachers in the 350 centers selected across the country, teachers of secondary, primary, and   teachers training colleges are enlightened and given the opportunity to ask questions to clear their doubts and deepen their understanding on the new approach of imparting knowledge on family life, population issues, and HIV/AIDs to pupils and students.

The new approach to sex education in schools in Cameroon is aimed at developing   positive, protective, and safe behaviors among students for their present and future lives  as grown-ups and  thereby fully understand and take the reproductive health rights agenda at heart. Despite the fact that this new approach has been   developed with  the support of international bodies like UNAIDs, my  greatest fear is that, like the abandoned approach to sex education, this  new approach will fail in achieving the laudable  goals for which  it has been  created.

Lack of monitoring and evaluation is one of those things which could easily lead to the failure of the new approach to sex education in Cameroon’s schools. The government and its donors must therefore ensure that there be a constant monitoring and periodic evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of this approach.

Coupled with the above, resistance by  a cross-section of society of the new, realistic, and down- to-earth manner of the approach to sex education in Cameroon’s schools  could further complicate  the implementation of  this laudable reform in Cameroon’s educational system.


This reform to Cameroon’s educational system in itself is one that should be considered in countries whose approaches to sex education have over the years not produced the desired results. The use of radio will enable a huge number of teachers to improve   their knowledge of sex education increased and thereby bring about a revolution in the teaching of Sex, Population Issues, HIV/ AIDs in Cameroon.

This reform is proof of the fact that, Youth and reproductive health rights are slowly but surely taking their place at the heart of the development policy agenda in Cameroon. Though full of obstacles and challenges, the path chosen by the thousands of young Cameroonians who day-in, day-out advocate for the inclusion of youths in the formulation and implementation of  youth-focused policies is the right path. We shall overcome!

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Source: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/20/1223231/michigan-tax-credit-fetuses/

State legislators in Michigan held a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bills 5684 and 5685, which would allow taxpayers to receive tax relief for unborn fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation. The proposed legislation is an odd push for Michigan Republicans, partly because Progress Michigan notesthe state slashed tax credits for children last year — meaning that although parents living in Michigan do not qualify for additional tax breaks to offset the cost of caring for their own children, they could soon be able to claim a tax credit for an unborn fetus.

Progress Michigan’s executive director points outthat the proposed legislation is a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as human beings while disregarding the real economic needs of Michigan’s children, 341,000 of whom currently live in high-poverty areas:

“It’s clear Lansing Republicans have the wrong priorities by wasting time on these extreme bills,” said Zack Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “This is really a backdoor way of passing extreme personhood legislation, which has been rejected by voters in states across the country. Even worse, this would create a special new tax credit for unborn fetuses, after Lansing Republicans eliminated the tax credit for living, breathing children last year.It’s time for our elected leaders to get their priorities straight and start working together to create good jobs and improve education.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures believes this type of legislation could represent the first of its kind, although they acknowledged that the issue of states providing tax credits for fetuses has not been widely studied.

The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency has estimated that allowing Michigan residents to claim a tax credit for unborn fetuses would cost the state between $5 million and $10 million annually in lost tax revenue.

(HT: Alison C)

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To commemorate World AIDS Day, Metro TeenAIDS & REALTalkDC hosts the annual “The Golden Ticket: Party for Prevention” event at LIV Night Club, 2001  11th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001 (U Street Metro).

FREE EVENT!! – Showcasing DMV’s very own local talent at the HOTTEST open-mic event of the year with special performances and FREE Food, FREE Prizes, FREE Confidential HIV/STI Testing for young people in the DMV!! Singers, Rappers, MCs, Poets, Dancers, Bands, etc are all welcome!



In the month of November, get a FREE Confidential HIV Test at the following sites to get your VIP pass to enter the party, get swag bag of stuff, and have a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE!!

* FreeStyle Youth Center – 651 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Eastern Market Metro)

* The Women’s Collective – 1331 Rhode Island Ave. NE (Rhode Island Ave. Metro)

* Sasha Bruce – POWER Program – 745 9th St. NE (Union Station Metro)

* Us Helping Us – 3636 Georgia Ave. NW (Georgia Ave/Petworth Metro)

* Community Education Group (CEG) – 3233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Potomac Ave. Metro – M6 or 39 Bus)

* SMYAL – 410 7th St. SE (Eastern Market Metro)

** Want another chance to win the GRAND PRIZE? Bring 2 friends to get tested at the event and you will get another raffle to enter**


For more information, visit us at www.realtalkdc.org.

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The United Nations announced, “Access to contraception is a universal human right that could dramatically improve the lives of women and children in poor countries.”  CBS News says that this is the first time the United Nations Population Fund’s annual report describes family planning as a human right.  CBS even quotes the executive director:

“Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

But not everyone is happy with this progress.  Groups like Human Life International are disgusted with this development.  Really, the idea of having some control over when and where to get pregnant, spacing the births far apart enough for optimal health of pregnant person and children, and actually being able to care for the resulting children while saving some money in medical fees is mortifying.  Let’s all get up in arms and fight this!  I kid, of course.  Albeit, there are people who serious with this kind of sentiment, like the folks at LifeSiteNews:

Declaring birth control a right means “everyone else must pay for…the new right” Clowes told LifeSiteNews, “even if those forced to pay for it may object to it on moral grounds. This violates the more basic human right of freedom of conscience, which has for some time now been dispensed with by UN ‘human rights’ champions.”

Despite what they’re saying, the UN declares “that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s* rights.”

*Let’s all try to remember that now all women can get pregnant and not all those who have the ability to become pregnant are women.


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I live about five minutes away from this.

Their typical show of “slactivism” is anti-choice chalk writing on school property, which reeks of emotionally manipulative messages full of misinformation and bad spelling.

And now there’s this recent sign they put up, even after what happened to Savita Halappanavar, see what AFY_EmilyB has to say about that.

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Not everyone is comfortable with discussing sex and sexuality with their parents, children or younger siblings. The way to push it under the rug if someone asked about it was to respond by saying “you’re too young to understand” or “we’ll talk about it when you’re older” and these comments only make you want to know more. Compared to the media before, sex is everywhere now and used to sell almost everything, so it should not be a wonder why children want to learn more about sex at earlier ages.

Let’s Talk Month is a national public education campaign that takes place during the month of October. Several organizations focus attention on encouraging parents to talk with their children about sex and sexuality. It creates an opportunity for everyone, including schools, businesses, parents, and health educators to have programs and activities to encourage communication between parents and children about sex and sexuality. The topic of sex and sexuality can be a hard and uncomfortable topic for both parents and children. This campaign has created some tips, messages and things the parent can do to make this conversation easier because parents are believed to be the primary educators to youth. A goal of this campaign is to help ease the discomfort.

 Although the month of October has wrapped up and is came to a close, it is still important because the talk about sex and sexuality will continue. It’s always important to remember that each person is different in their own way, all of us are growing and changing throughout our lifetimes and that sexuality is beautiful, not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

For more about “Let’s Talk Month” check out this website.

Categories: Sex Education
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This summer, during the International AIDS Conference, youth activists from across the country called on the President to establish the first ever National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day.

The road to an AIDS-free generation begins by prioritizing youth. Today’s young people are the first generation that has never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In the United States, almost 40% of new HIV infections are young people ages 13 to 29. Despite this harsh reality, young people and their allies are determined to end this pandemic once and for all.

Join us in calling on President Obama to recognize the National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day!

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is a nationwide call to action for our communities, schools and government to invest in young people’s health, education, and leadership in the fight against HIV & AIDS.

To achieve this day, we need you.  Sign the petition – as either an individual or an organization – that calls on President Obama, Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the HIV & AIDS community to annually recognize April 10 as National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day.

Take action now for a National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day!

With your support, we can achieve the dream of an AIDS-free generation.

For young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are passionate about HIV & AIDS work, apply today to become a National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day Ambassador.  Help us make sure the day truly represents young people like you! Applications are due November 30. For more information, click here.

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This is something you can use if you didn’t use birth control or were late on your regular method.  It’s really stronger doses of the same hormones that are found in regular birth control.  And it’s most effective if it’s taken within 12 hours after sex.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Plan B and RU486 (also known as the ‘abortion pill’) are the same thing.  It’s not.  Pregnancy is defined by implantation, and Plan B can’t harm an egg that has finished implanting–thus can’t cause an abortion.  It also cannot cause birth defects.

Source: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/emergency-contraception-morning-after-pill-4363.asp

Click on the image and then print it out for the Plan B Coupon!

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Check out this entry on Huff Post by Advocates for Youth’s own fantastic Youth Activist Network Coordinator, Ian O’Brien (also known as amplify user AFY_Ian)! It features an interview with GACC safesite Jeremiah at St. John’s University in New York!

Trojan Sexual Health Report Card Sparks Action


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by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.


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Boom. The International Youth Leadership Council is looking for college students in the DC metro area to apply to be new council members to start this January.

Need some background?

Advocates for Youth sponsors a project called the International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC), which is designed to develop youth leaders in the areas of international sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, global HIV and AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other sexual orientation and gender identity rights. The Council currently consists of seven members who are a diverse group of young people with backgrounds from around the world.  Members attend colleges or universities in the Washington, DC Metro area.


IYLC members work with the staff of the Policy Department and The Youth Activist Network to increase U.S. support and leadership for improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally and domestically. As members of the council, they develop an understanding of a broad range of issues, including international family planning; maternal health and adolescent maternal mortality; gender inequality; harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage; HIV and AIDS; and LGBT rights. They in turn become familiar with related U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and international agreements that address youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.


Throughout the school year, council members serve as youth educators, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health issues and polices that affect young people around the world. They organize campus events, utilize online and traditional media outlets, conduct educational workshops, attend conferences, and lobby policy makers at the national and international level.

To Summarize:
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level

-resources to mobilize your communities

-meet some pretty fantastic people

-be fancy

Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!

Apply Now!


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Talk to your parents about sex.  No, really.  Do it.  I’m being completely serious.

If your parents aren’t around and/or conversations with your parents never go well and you fear an extreme negative reaction, find a local clinic/Planned Parenthood and direct some of your questions there or do some research using the Internet or find a trusted adult who you can talk to.  The education is worth it especially with all the risks that do come with sex.

But if the worst that can happen from talking about sex with your parents is just awkwardness, then it’s definitely worth the try.  And it might not just be awkward for you, it’s probably this way for them too.  But they care about you.  And I’m sure you care about them, even if you’re not ready to admit that quite yet.

Studies show that the closer the relationship is between parents and children, the less likely it is that a teen pregnancy or an STI will occur.1  Open communication can only help. I know, I know.  Easier said than done.  So, how do we bring it up?  Mom or Dad hands you your lunch or allowance or whatever and you just go, “Hey, can we talk about sex?”  If that works for you, try that.  I mean, yeah.  Your parents will be caught off guard, but it’s better than never finding out what your parents know or if they’re willing to help you reach a better understanding of sex and all it entails.

You can also try pulling up some article from a magazine or off the Internet about sex education and/or prevention care and try discussing that with your parents, then casually ask questions about your own interest, but be sure to have those questions prepared.

Why would you want to ask your parents about sex?  Why is it so important to have comprehensive education not only from school but from your parents as well?

It’s just important to gather all the information you can about sex.  Let’s look at it this way.  There are approximately one billion people ages 15-24 in the whole world, and there are about 42 million in the United States.  48% of high school students are currently sexually active, and 62% of those teens report using a condom the last time they had sex. Just 62%.  That’s like a D minus.  But get this, in 2006, only 5% of American high schools made condoms available to students.2

Maybe you’re thinking, “How hard can putting a condom on be?”  It’s a good question.  You probably know all the necessary steps, like checking the expiration date on the package, opening it with just your fingers and never your teeth, squeezing the tip of the condom, when exactly to put it on, leaving a half-inch space at the tip, which side to roll down, etc.  And did you know that with typical use of a condom, 15 out of 100 people face an unintended pregnancy?  When condoms are used consistently and correctly, less than 2 people experience an unintended pregnancy.3  Almost half of all new infections are happening with people under 25, but only less than a third of these people know how to protect themselves from STIs and HIV.4  So, think about those numbers again.  Weigh the awkwardness and the importance of sex education together for a minute and decide what matters more to you.

For more facts, please click this link: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts

1) Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children 5.3-4 (2003): 7-32.
2) http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html
3) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts
4) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/hiv-home 


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SWARM Council-35

This final edition of “Meet SWARM ’12-‘13” includes 4 wonder young women who know how to get things done.

Alexus Tullock

Alexus Tullock is a sophomore at Claflin University. She’s been on the Orangeburg Chamber of Commerce Youth Council and the Orangeburg County Youth Council. She’s full of life and brilliant ideas. She’s the headliner in the “Tell Them We Care About” video released late last spring, and she’s sure to headline many more. She’s passionate about sex education largely because Orangeburg has struggled with teen pregnancy and HIV. She recognizes that abstinence-only education leaves students vulnerable. This is why she joined the SWARM Council. One of her many goals is to make abstinence-only programs a thing of the outdated past and to make comprehensive sex education a standard.

Ashley LeCounte

Ashley LeCounte comes to us from South Carolina State University. She’s a nursing major and sees the problems of poor sexual health policies every day as she completes her clinicals. By working on the council for the next year, Ashley hopes to make some real improvements in her community. She’ll be bringing her experience from various boards and leadership positions that she’s completed in the past few years to strengthen the Council from the inside out. There’s no doubt that when we go to the Statehouse to talk one-on-one with our legislators that Ashley will command the attention of her policy makers. She’s a woman on a mission, and no old geezer is going to stop her.

Darian James

Darian James also comes from SC State. We’re pleased that she’s a sophomore- that means she’ll be with us for years to come. Though Darian is interested in engineering, it doesn’t stop her from advocating for positive sexual health policy reform. She undoubtedly has more mathematical and physics skills than two of me put together. We’ll be sure to put her skills to maximum capacity, so we can optimize our state’s trajectory.

Emily Rogers

And, we have Emily Rogers from the College of Charleston. She’s our returning council member from ’11-’12. As you might know, she’s a fireball. Emily’s drive for success matched with her exuberance makes working towards our goals of better sex education not just fulfilling, but really freakin’ fun. Emily will be graduating in May, and we wish her the best. But, in the meantime, we’re going to work on changing the sexual health atmosphere in Charleston! I know what Emily has in store for her campus, and I can’t wait to tell you what they are in the weeks to come.

Click here to experience a bit of the Holy Mackerels

(And, for your information: Alexus graduated her high school valedictorian. Ashley can probably teach you a thing or two on professionalism. Darian can capture a timeless moment in a photograph. And, Emily can balance your children in her youth yoga classes.)

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SWARM Council-35

Melanie Waddell joined the SWARM Council after volunteering with Brittany Pack from last year’s council. Melanie attends Converse College and is quite the lovely lady. She appreciates theater, psychology, and politics. She brings with her experience as the Day Student Association VP, a Palmetto Players Business Manager, an Assistant Editor of The Conversationalist, a member of Model League, and as a Historian of the Psychology Association. She’s brilliant and sharp. She’s already making great impressions with her council members and planning great things for her campus.

Aaron Charleston is a charismatic man from Benedict College. His smile truly lights up a room. We are very delighted he’s introducing SWARM to Benedict’s College. We applaud Benedict for their efforts to keep their students healthy. With Aaron finishing up his senior year with us, he’s going to leave Benedict a better place. This time next year Aaron hopes to be in medical school. We’re rooting for him, and trust me, we’ll give him some great essay topics to talk about!

Jasmine Stewart is one badass. She’s joined the SWARM Council to continue to improve her community’s sexual health. Jasmine came to us as an officer for Winthrop’s LGBT organization, GLoBAL. She’s wanted to address social inequalities from a new perspective to combat the same old problems with young people’s sexual health. We are also very excited to see what she can do with a video camera especially since the video camera we’ll be putting in her hands is a Canon G10. Give her some time and she’ll be dishing out YouTube blockbusters. Prepare yourself for this quick-draw advocate. She’s gonna rock your world.

See how “The Bee’s Knees” do it

(And, for the record: Melanie will row circles around turbulent legislators in her kayak. Aaron’s always in a positive mood, cause he spends his free time having fun volunteering. And, when Jasmine’s nowhere to be found volunteering with her LGBT community, it’s because she’s buried under her history books reading through civil rights movements.)

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SWARM Council-35

Students With A Responsible Message (SWARM) are Baaaack! Nine of the SWARMsters from last year graduated and have fanned out across the country to pursue their careers. That means we have one returning council member and nine newbies. Now, many of the new council members have worked with us in the past, so don’t think they aren’t hitting the ground running, cause they’re already out o’ sight!

Brittany Prince

First up we have Brittany Prince of the University of South Carolina. Brittany is pursuing a Masters in Health Administration with a concentration in Sexual Health. Brittany comes to us with valuable experience. She has served as an American Academy of Arts and Science Community Service Co-Chair, a mentor for the Minority Assistance Peer Program, worked with IMAGE Modeling Troupe, USC Homecoming Committee, Association of Minority Pre-Health Students, and South Carolina Public Health Association. She may be one busy woman, but she’s committed to giving 110% to working on improving campus sexual health policies at USC and statewide policies at the Statehouse.


Jordan Craven

Jordan Craven is a dapper and energized Junior at the University of South Carolina. He has expressed that joining SWARM is one of many steps towards his goal of working to improve communities. He believes that educating the public on healthy attitudes towards sex, gender, and relationships will reduce unintended pregnancy, intimate partner violence, the spread of STIs and HIV, and will ultimately better our state in more ways than any of us can begin to imagine.


Nadia Anderson

Nadia Anderson comes to us from Columbia College! She is a sophomore and has already completed more than many by the time they graduate. Nadia has worked with the Activities Board at Columbia College. She’s also a member of the NAACP there. She’s been voted Counselor of the Year at the YMCA of Columbia, and recently she has volunteered with the Leadership Institute. She takes pride in her experience working with adolescent girls’ confidence, self-respect, and efficacy. She notes that accomplishing these three important aspects of growing up can’t be completed without them having a good sex education where they recognize the power they have over their own bodies.

Check out these three Rock Stars as they break into the world of video blogs.

We gave them a list of objectives to practice their presentations of advocating for comprehensive sex education to the public. It’s clear they had some fun along the way. Cheers them for their first ever fully self-produced, scripted, and edited video.

(For the record: Brittany will one-up you in basketball. Jordan likes outdated policies like he likes his coffee: ground up and served to-go. And, Nadia moves like a butterfly and stings like a bee on the dance floor.)

Be sure to follow TellThem’s posts over the course of the week to see what the other seven SWARMsters have been up to and to see their first videos!

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By Emma Davidson

Washington DC is a magical place. I remember my first trip, many years ago, and the excitement of finally standing in buildings that I had read about and seen in movies. You hear about DC, read about DC, but it doesn’t always feel real until you’re standing there really looking at it.

Traveling to our nation’s Capitol with 10 smart, capable, eager people is an adventure in itself. The SWARM Council is comprised of 10 amazing college students, who used their time in DC is expand their minds, hearts and perspectives. They were consistently present – not just physically, but mentally as well. This was a challenge – long days of multi- hour sessions on very heavy topics would wear on anyone – but not our SWARMers.

I could name thousands of favorite moments, but what I took away most from our time at the Urban Retreat was a sense of camaraderie and team. We are a team – through tough fights, heartbreak, and triumph. We are stronger together, and will succeed because we have each other. In our case, what happened at the Urban Retreat will not stay at the Urban Retreat. We are returning to South Carolina as trained, experienced reproductive justices advocates. We are bringing back a wealth of knowledge and ideas – and we can’t wait to show what we can do!

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By Cherisse Eatmon

Wow! So what an amazing couple of events that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. I recently attended the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Columbia with hundreds of others including our SWARM Council. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has organized more than 250 walks nationwide to support suicide prevention research and local programs. It was touching and inspiring to see a group of strangers who were, if only for a moment, bonded. There didn’t need to be a physical connection we all knew and understood the depth of our reasoning for being together as one.

I also had the pleasure of accompanying the SWARM Council on their trip to Washington DC for the annual Urban Retreat. It was here that I watched a group of students from colleges across South Carolina grow together as a family and share their work plans with advocates from across our country and internationally. We were all fighting the vicious battle for equality, inclusion, rights, respect, and responsibility. I couldn’t be more proud of them and their resiliency!

If it wasn’t for the loss of a friend and colleague I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet and learn with such an amazing group of people. Tim, you are missed and remembered each day. The SWARM Council is a spectacular group of young game changers. I’ve watched them grow and they are more motivated than ever to continue the work and improve policies surrounding sexual health-with each mind, person, and policy we strive to continue to be the change set before us. Go SWARM!

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SWARM Council-35

Tell Them‘s youth council for policy change, SWARM (Students With A Responsible Message) heads to DC today to participate in the 12th annual Advocates for Youth Urban Retreat where they will receive comprehensive training on ways to improve sexual health education and programs in our state.

SWARM members attending the conference are Darian Ames (South Carolina State University), Nadia Anderson (Columbia College), Aaron Charleston (Benedict College), Jordan Craven (University of South Carolina), Ashley LeConte (South Carolina State University), Brittany Prince (University of South Carolina), Emily Rogers (College of Charleston), Jasmine Stewart (Winthrop University), Alexus Truluck (Claflin University), and Melanie Waddell (Converse College)

The four-day event includes 120 students from 20 states and 5 countries who will receive specialized training on grassroots and campus organizing, online advocacy, media outreach and public speaking. Activists will also conduct policymaker education visits on Capitol Hill.

The Council’s mobilization comes at a critical time for South Carolina’s young people who face some alarming statistics: 3 in 10 young women in our state will get pregnant before age 20. One in five new HIV/AIDS cases reported in South Carolina is among people age 25 and under. And, youth ages 15-24 account for almost half of new sexually transmitted infection cases.

While in DC, SWARM representatives will be live tweeting from conference events, sharing photos, and highlighting issues affecting today’s youth. Traveling with a theme of “Our Issues, Our Voices”, you can follow along at @tellthemsc on both Twitter and Instagram, or on our Facebook page.

The Council is known on campuses as Students with a Responsible Message (S.W.A.R.M), a name selected to underscore a core goal of building alliances around an issue.

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By Melanie Waddell

SWARM attended the Urban Retreat in Washington DC over the weekend. It was an amazing experience where I was able to meet tons of different people from all across the nation and the world who are just as invested in these issues as I am. To see these young people so involved and engaged in the activities really made me proud to say that I’m with this group. I’m with Advocates for Youth and CAMI. I’m part of a group that promotes comprehensive sex education and equal rights for all.

So this group of amazing talented youth marched towards Capitol Hill and we went in to see our representatives and show them our power. We wanted to show them how much we cared, and show them why they should support us. We marched in to those offices, sat down, and met Congressional aides. We talked, gave our spiel, and left information folders. When we finished, the aides asked us questions or thanked us.

They were nice but noncommittal. One of them explained the process to our group. At the federal level there is only so much that our representatives can do. It’s really up to the state legislators to enact comprehensive sex ed programs for SC. This is because the federal government cannot dictate curriculum, that’s a state responsibility.

In a weird way, this was a practice run for the real meeting with our state legislators. For me, this confirmed that what we’re doing can make an impact. One person can make a difference because there’s a ripple effect. Every time we talk to a legislator, hand out a pamphlet, or post a blog, we can spread the message. And just by doing this, we are already making a difference.

SC is traditional. She’s old-fashioned. She likes her tea sweet and her yellow jasmine blooming. She has never been fond of change. And I can’t fault her for that. I’m the same way. I love SC. It’s the perfect temperature, with mild seasons, great people, and a friendly atmosphere that makes me feel at home no matter what city I’m in. That’s why I feel so strongly about this issue. SC is a great place. I’m just trying to make it even better. I want a state that is known for its neighborly waves, not its ranking as the 8th highest state for HIV rates.

I love my state. And I’m glad that SC has control over its own school curriculum. However, something needs to change. The statistics show that Ab-Only-Until-Marriage programs aren’t effective. They’re expensive, inaccurate, and they don’t work. If SC paid me $20,000 to tell blatant lies and I only worked one day a year, I’m sure taxpayers would be very upset with me. So how come no one questions the sex education that embodies those same qualities? Something has to change. That something is the sex education that is being taught across SC. We know what needs to change. But how do we do it? It’s simple really. We spread the message, we distribute information, and we show our legislators that we care about comprehensive sex education because we care about SC. So what are you waiting for?

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Its almost been several weeks since me and my Broward County Youth Council Family attended the 2012 Urban Retreat in Washington D.C. I don’t know if words can express how much knowledge I attained from this trip. Not only that Ive gotten the opportunity to meet numerous of young people like myself who are passionate and who strongly advocate for these issues in their communities as do I. I also learned so much from the CAMI project which im excited about and the various trainings I attended. I can truly say that this retreat not only open my eyes to other issues that are out there but how I can make a difference to make my voice be heard. Love, Live, Life.

Categories: Sex Education
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By Ashley LeCounte

This weekend at the Urban Retreat was SOOOO fun! I really didn’t expect to enjoy my self  this much. I gained so many skills this weekend and got to see a lot of great monuments. My SWARM Council is awesome, I could not have imagined a better group of people to travel with.

It was very humbling to meet with so many other people from around the world with different backgrounds. Everyone was very nice and genuine. We learned about ” salary negotiating” in one of the sessions. I cannot wait to teach this skill to my AKPsi brothers when I get back to SC State. It lets me know that the money and time spent at Urban Retreat was not in vain because these skills can be used everywhere and not just in my advocacy work.

I definitely have benefited from this weekend. And most of all I know that my dear friend Tim was watching us with a smiling face the whole time.

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By Jordan Craven

I honestly feel like a changed person after the Urban Retreat. I miss my council, coordinators, and new friends. It was the best trip of the year.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Sonya Renee speak at the final dinner. Through spoken word her message was empowering and was beautiful. I fought tears and chills in every poem or stop. One day I hope to find my inner courage to be able to get my message of gender equality, comprehensive sex education, and personal stories across as elegantly as she did.

Another thing I loved was the people. Everyone was extremely accepting, warm, beautiful, and heartfelt. During the talent shows many performed amazingly with vulnerability and passion. In sessions, people made sure I was comfortable and accepted. Never have I been to a place where I felt so open to be me.

Finally, lobby day was a surprising success. Believe me, I was hella nervous, but through workshops, encouragement and wonderful coordinators and fellow council members, I, and everyone else, was able to step up to the plate and speak out in support of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act.

I LOVED the privilege circle (despite the fact that it was cut short). I felt moved by the honesty and vulnerability from everyone who participated. I was able to fully comprehend my own privilege as a white male, but also my disadvantage as a gay youth who grew up in a single-parent home in a rural community. I felt close to my peers and would LOVE to do this with SWARM USC!

Overall I thought it was an amazing experience. When I left DC I didn’t want to come back to Columbia and the ordinary it serves. I will miss the sea of people, the sea of acceptance, and the sea of hope.

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By Nadia Anderson

I had many takeaways from this amazing trip to Washington, DC for the Urban Retreat. It is kind of hard to lower it to three, but I will try. One takeaway was the act of storytelling. I never knew that it was better to talk about personal experiences rather than facts. I especially thought this because we were presenting for legislators for lobby day and they seem to always want the statistics when hearing about bills that people want to be passed. It was incredible hearing stories from all of the other students and even some of the students from our own group. I had to keep from crying sometimes. When I told my personal story, it was hard because some people that knew me for years were just hearing it for the first time and I think that it changed their perspective of me. I am glad that I told my story though.

I really enjoyed meeting all of the other groups on the trip. Everyone brought their unique personalities and styles and made for a great experience. I really enjoyed meeting the international students. I never knew the struggle that these people went through and that is something that you can’t just see from someone’s outer appearance. We all got on deeper levels with one another and learned so much that is relevant across the world. Everyone was on a mission to change the world and this weekend experience made our missions easier to accomplish.

One thing that I learned from the Urban Retreat that I brought back to implement in SC is the HIV treatment and the studies that scientists are doing to find a cure. I never knew that there were so many ways of treating HIV. I believe that people do not get tested because they still look at it as a death sentence. I will talk to the teen groups that I run and make sure that they know this to tell their friends and make sure that they are aware of what they can do to help themselves.

One memory I will always take with me is the group hug that we had before we started lobbying. Through that small moment, I knew that we were a family now. The things that we shared with each other and the laughs and smiles we shared made me realize that I could depend on all of them whenever I needed anything. Even though we came together under very tragic circumstances, we now have the motivation and the love to fight for what we believe in as a team.

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By Darian James

As I made my way to the airport to join my coordinators and council members, I began to wonder about what the Urban Retreat would be like. After missing flight number one and being persuaded not to get on flight number two, flight number three was very early (5:26 a.m. to be exact) but quite the charm!

After missing two flights and waking up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the third flight I knew for sure that good luck was in store for me. I arrived at the Washington D.C. airport and was greeted by one of my fabulous coordinators, Cherisse.

Thinking that all of my bad luck was used on yesterday, I was certain that the rest of the trip would be perfect….. not just yet! I knocked on the door to room 711 and a guy answered the door. He welcomed me in and introduced himself. I thought nothing of it at that moment but as I began to think about rooming with a guy as the day went on, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I mentioned it to my coordinators. As we talked about the situation Emma explained that I was placed in that room by mistake. PHEW….I was relieved! As always, my name gave off the impression that I was a male.

The good luck begins and continues after that moment. The Urban Retreat was phenomenal. I am so appreciative for everything that I encountered prior to arriving at the Urban Retreat because I know that those obstacles were preparing me for my “Fiercely Fabulous Weekend.” The retreat certainly met and exceeded all of my expectations. Advocates from all over the world had the opportunity to share ideas, network, bond, grow, and so much more. At the various training sessions we had the opportunity to openly discuss our opinions and experiences about different topics without harsh stares or offensive comments from the people around us.

I am so thankful for this retreat because it not only allowed me to meet new people and grow as an individual but it assisted S.W.A.R.M. in forming a bond that is unbreakable. We shared so much with each other during those five days that you would have thought we knew each other for over five years. We laughed, walked, talked, took pictures, ate, danced, joked, and even cried together. I love my S.W.A.R.M. family so much and I know that Tim is smiling down on us because he would not have wanted it any other way! We love you Tim and we will continue to make you proud. I can honestly say that Exuberant Emma and Courageous Cherisse are two magnificent individuals. To take time out of their busy schedules, to travel to Washington, D.C. with 9 college students, who they saw face to face once or twice was remarkable. Thanks ladies!

The Urban Retreat has given me a different outlook on life, responsibility, rights, and so much more. My most memorable moments are going to the youth lounge for a refresher, media 101 and 102 with Ms. Rachel Cooke, the fabulous speech delivered by Ms. Sonia Renee, and LOBBYING! Lobbying was a great way to end our awesome retreat. It felt so good to go to our state representatives’ staff to voice our opinions and share our personal stories. We even had the opportunity to go on a few tours thank to our amazing coordinator Emma.

We as young people have the right to comprehensive sex education, deserve respect from everyone around us, and you should place responsibility on us to make wise decision when it pertains to sex and relationships!

Anyone who had anything to do with the Urban Retreat I want to thank you so much for a job well done! #UR2012

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By: Alexus Tullock

When Ariel and Leighann informed me on the Urban Retreat they attended last year, I thought they were going a little overboard on the fun they said they had. They said I would meet cool people, get to lobby on Capital Hill, and eat lots and lots of snacks. Well, I honestly had the time of my life in DC.

First, meeting my SWARM council in August, I knew they were the bomb but this trip made us feel like a family.

Then, arriving in DC and meeting awesome people from all over the world was amazing. I had the pleasure of having a roommate from Africa. I never knew how lucky I was until I had the chance to listen to her story. Sexual health education doesn’t exist in Nigeria and many health clinics aren’t willing to help families in need. Most families can’t afford to go to a doctor when they are sick. My heart went out to her and her county. I took a small thing like going to the doctor for granted.

Every morning at 7:00 a.m. (that’s right 7 in the morning!) the California group introduced Forward Stance to the Urban Retreat. Being the great group SWARM is, we were the only ones to show up. Honestly, Forward Stance made a lot of sense. We should always focus on our opponent with a forward stance and we will win every time.

At the closing dinner before Lobby Day, we had the chance to give shout outs to whoever we wanted. Nadia gave a shout out to Emma and Cherisse. Boy did her story have me tearing up. It made me realize how much Tim was missed and how much SWARM was loved.

Lobbing on Capital Hill was so much FUN!! I felt so important. We were like little league politicians walking around DC. Emma was like our Secret Service Agent taking us under tunnels and on private tours! It reminded me a lot of the movie Salt. Having the chance to talk to our state’s Legislatures and bring issues affecting our youth was truly a “wow” moment. How many college students have the opportunity to do that? Not many but my SWARM Council did. I’m sure we made Tim proud!!

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By Brittany Prince

My 1st flight. My 1st trip to the Capital. My 1st Advocates for Youth Conference. September 27-October 1 was filled with a lot of changing events.

At the age of 22, I finally experienced my 1st plane flight. Excitement rushed through my body as I arrived to the airport. I felt like a little kid in a candy store. As we prepared for take off I became anxious and could not help but look out the window. Then it finally took place, the wheels started rolling, the speed accelerated and the plane left the ground. My eyes lit up and I started screaming “weeee” until the pilot instructed us to turn our electronic devices on. My flight was everything I expected and more. I finally got to see Google maps in person.

Once we arrived in DC the metro became our new of source wheels and also my bed on the go. The speakers and workshops were wonderful, but the people were amazing. It was amazing meeting people from different backgrounds coming together for a common goal. It filled my heart with joy being surrounded by youth who were being the change they want to see in the world. Although it was nice meeting new people it was gratifying getting to know my council members better. I never would have imagine being so close to people who were complete strangers to me less than two months ago. Our bond has grown so strong for one another. We laugh together, cry together and will continue to change the world, together. I would do anything for them. We are not just council members, WE ARE FAMILY.

We continue to soar and reach the sky. We will TAKE FLIGHT!

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By Jasmine Stewart

I have thought about the Urban Retreat quite a bit since we have left DC.

The whole experience made me have a whole new perspective on rights, respect, and responsibility; what those three words means to me and everyone around me; what it  really takes to gain those words and obtain them; but most importantly what it means to share these words with each other.

Coming to DC, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions felt and friends gained outside of the workshops, training sessions, and the events.  Yes, we literally spent hours learning, thinking, and training, but after each day, session and second spent together I have gotten to know a little bit more about each person around me.  I felt grateful, and just more than happy to know we have youth from all over the United States and outside of the United States that had a passion just as I for the world to change, and simply by one thing we consider to be so taboo where we live. Lets talk about sex. Lets talk about a comprehensive sex education.

This brings me back to one of my favorite moments: introductions from each youth organization. CAMI CA, started off by singing ” Lets talk about sex baby..” a song originally by Pretty Ricky and Oakland related it to having a comprehensive sex education. I believe each and every youth organization performed and introduced themselves in a unique way. We were all vulnerable, and we all felt nervous going up on stage for the first time in front of faces we didn’t find familiar yet, but we did it for a cause. To remember each face that took the stage to say who they were for a cause, in the most informal way to do so made it the most memorable moment to start off with at the Urban Retreat.

The last night spent at the Washington Court Hotel was our last performance to put on within the hotel, but individually. It was a talent show/ open mic night and I was deciding whether or not I should do drag. My group was excited for me to do so and I was nervous. I felt great that I had people supporting me, even outside of S.W.A.R.M. My roommate and another friend I made on the retreat totally thought I should do it, but my roommate is the one who truly pushed me to do so, saying ” I won’t regret it”. Earlier that day my roommate had a situation she was dealing with and I was there for her and I felt great that she believed in me as much as I believed in her. During the show I saw many people perform and truly put themselves out there and everyone was so supportive as well. As I went up to perform to Chris Brown “Strip” I was a bit nervous and thought that maybe the song wasn’t appropriate enough, but then I remembered one of the things we focused on this whole time was feeling free to express sexuality. Everyone had  gotten up, and clapped while I was performing, and a lot of love was shown after the performance. I felt at ease, I felt as if I had a place where I was truly accepted and where everyone was for the most part accepted no matter who they are. After that we all danced together to celebrate our accomplishments, and future accomplishments. We were celebrating the meaning of rights, respect, and responsibility…because during this trip we have realized we haven’t gained these words… We have always obtained them. Through sharing this time together we have shared with each other the true meaning of a youths rights, respect, and responsibility.

The last day was the most nerve wrecking performance of all.  It was Lobby Day and we all had to spread the word about The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. On Lobby Day the faculty and some youth veterans told us that we have the power. We have the choice to elect these people, and without us they wouldn’t be where they are. And I never thought about lobbying in that way. I know it was my first time, but I can say that day has really changed my thoughts on policy change and what us as a youth can do to make a difference. It makes me feel that as a youth we all have the right and responsibility to take stances even politically to change our social structure. Because we do respect ourselves, and others as well to do so.

This Urban Retreat helped me realize I can come back to South Carolina and share with others what was shared with me. Our rights, respect, and responsibility. And it can all start with talking about sex… =)

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Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.

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(Trigger warning: Rape)

Is consent for sex something that’s assumed?  Or is it something we must actively obtain when we are initiating it?  Here’s what the Connecticut Supreme Court decided in the last few weeks:

The state Supreme Court Monday threw out the conviction of a city man found guilty of sexually assaulting a severely handicapped woman.

In a 4-3 decision, the high court ruled that despite evidence the 26-year-old woman cannot speak and has little body movement, there was no evidence she could not communicate her refusal to have sex with the defendant, Richard Fourtin Jr. As a result of the ruling, Fourtin goes free and cannot be tried for the case again.1

So, obviously Richard Fourtin Jr.’s defense was: “She didn’t say no./She didn’t fight back.”
The state Supreme Court went on to say:

Women are assumed to be in a constant state of consent unless they explicitly state otherwise.2

Did you already get past the gross urge to puke, head desk, and rage?  It’s okay.  Get it out of your system.  The level of how problematic this is makes me want to run for the hills.  But I’d be a liar if I said that this shocks me.

What if I rephrased the state Supreme Court’s statement to:

Women are assumed to be in a constant state of free access.  Yeah, everyone, just go ahead and try raping that lady.  You have total access unless she says no and fights back.

Sure, I paraphrased that.  But it’s the same message.  It’s still the same implication.

Sometimes sex and women are seen as a commodities, still problematic, but for all intents and purposes, I’ll use this model.  So, what if I rephrased it in this way:

Everyone’s houses and cars are assumed to be in a constant state of access.  So, do feel free to enter any house or car without the owner’s permission unless the owner says no and puts up a struggle.

Now I don’t agree with comparing women to houses and cars.  It unnerves me when anyone uses the fallacious “building demolition” analogy.  But the state Supreme Court’s ruling is based on the commodity model, and based on this model the assumption of other people being in a constant state of consent still makes no sense when paralleled to the prior analogy.  It doesn’t make any sense no matter how we change the context.  Affirmative and enthusiastic consent is a standard we have in all aspects of our lives except when it comes to sex for some reason.  Outside of rape, isn’t it better to have sex with someone you know who wants it completely?  Silence isn’t a yes.  It’s definitely not a, “Oh, I want this.  I want you.”  It’s just compliancy to avoid hurting feelings, arguments, or even violence.  It’s not consent.

Ruling on this lack of a no instead of on the absence of consent puts all the responsibility on the victims to say no instead of on the rapists to refrain from raping. It insinuates that victims are expected to say no to someone potentially dangerous, and even to get physically violent, ignoring the very high risk of possibly being injured further or, you know, killed.  It is an example of rape culture and, at the same time, perpetuates it.   “No means no” is not enough, it’s not efficient.  We should be promoting “yes means yes.”  Hell yes and nothing less.


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This is outside the State Capitol building in Lansing for a free viewing of The Vagina Monologues, in which Eve Ensler made an appearance on her day off, in support of Representative Lisa Brown and overall reproductive healthcare and rights this past summer.  I was definitely there.

Michigan is trying to pass what is considered the worst anti-abortion bill in the nation.

What HB 5177 entails:

1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger.

2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.

3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.

4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be requiredto carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.

Click here to see the progress of the bill.

I hope I don’t get in trouble for this following one.  I don’t really think it’s profane.

You probably can’t see me, but I’m somewhere in here.  I’ll have to look it up but I think over 500 people were there.


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One of the things I like to do as the moderator for STFU, Pro-Life is share pro-choice music.  People ask me why I do this, how is it relevant, etc.  I just think it’s cool to know if our favorite bands or singer supports a cause that we believe in.  A lot of these artists actually put their money into supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Giving them a shout out just seems like the thing to do.

As stated on the STFU, Pro-Life blog:

This is based on their support for Planned Parenthood (either by playing for feminist events and/or knowingly signing onto labels that donate to PP) and continuous work for feminism and overall pro-choice awesomeness. You might be surprised by some of these artists. And if there’s a musician(s) you know that’s pro-choice and it’s not on this list, let me know! Progress never sounded so good.

And here are some of the bands:

AdeleAgainst Me!

Against All Authority


Alanis Morisette

Alice in Chains

Alkaline Trio

Aimee Mann

Andrew Bird

Angels and Airwaves

Ani Difranco

Animal Collective


The Antlers

Aphex Twin

Archers of Loaf

Asobi Seksu


Atlas Sound

Audio Karate

Au Revoir Simone


Bad Astronaut

Bad Religion

Barenaked Ladies


Beach House

Beastie Boys



Ben Folds

Ben Harper

Best Coast


Big D and the Kids Table

Bikini Kill

Billie Holiday

The Black Keys

Black Mountain

Blink 182

Bloc Party


The Bloodsugars

Boards of Canada

Bob Marley

Bon Iver

Born Ruffians

Bouncer Fighter

Bright Eyes


Broken Social Scene


Bruce Springsteen



Cat Power

Chaka Khan


Christina Aguilera

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Cloud Cult



The Cure

Crystal Antlers

Cyndi Lauper

Dam Funk

Dan Deacon


Dar Williams

Dave Matthews Band

The Dears

Death Cab for Cutie

The Decemberists

Deer Hunter


Devendra Banhardt

Digable Planets

Dillinger Escape Plan

Dinosaur Jr.

Dirty Projectors


Dixie Chicks


The Donnas

Dropkick Murphys

Dry the River


Ellie Goulding

Elvis Perkins

Emilie Autumn




Expensive Looks

The Explosion


Femi Kuti

Fish Bone

Flogging Molly

Florence and the Machine

Freelance Whales

Flying Lotus

Foo Fighters

Forest Fire

The Format

Four Tet

Fox and the Law 


Gang Gang Dance

Get Up Kids

Good Charlotte

Goo Goo Dolls

The Go Team

Green Day

Gregory and the Hawk

Grizzly Bear


Henry Rollins


Holly Throsby

The Holograms


Hygiene Wilder

Iggy Pop

Indigo Girls


Janis Ian

Jessie J


Jimi Hendrix

Joan Jett

Joanna Newsom

Johnny Cash

Justin Timberlake

Kate Nash

The Kennedys

Kings of Convenience

Kinky Friedman

Kitten Forever


Lady Gaga

Lenny Kravitz

Less Than Jake

Le Tigre

Lily Allen

Little Boots

Living Colour

Liz Phair


The Lunachicks


The Magnetic Fields

Manic Street Preachers

Maps & Atlases

Marilyn Manson

Marina and the Diamonds

Marnie Stern

Mary J. Blige

Melissa Etheridge



The Mountain Goats

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

My Brightest Diamond

My Morning Jacket

The National

Neil Young

Neko Case

New Found Glory

The New Pornographers

Nice Nice

Nice Purse

Nina Simone


No Age

No Doubt


No Rey

No Use For a Name


The Offspring

Of Montreal

Passion Pit

Patti Smith


Pearl Jam





The Postal Service

The Presidents of the United States

Queens of the Stone Age


Rage Against the Machine

The Raincoats

The Ramones


Ra Ra Riot

Regina Spektor

Red Hot Chilli Peppers


Rilo Kiley

Rise Against


Salt ‘n’ Pepa


Sarah McLachlan

The Scissor Sisters

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Sheryl Crow

The Shins

Sigur Ros


Social Distortion

Sonic Youth

Sorry OK

Sound Garden


The States

Steel Train

Stone Temple Pilots

Straylight Run

Strike Anywhere


Sum 41

The Summer Set

Surfer Blood

Sweet Secrets 

System of a Down

Ted Leo

Teenage Moods


Tegan and Sara

Thao Nguyen

Thom Yorke

Those Darlins

Tom Waits


Tori Amos

Tupac Shakur

TV on the Radio


Uh Huh Her


The Vacancy

Vampire Weekend

Veruca Salt

The Volcano Diary



White Zombie

Wolf Mother

Wolf Parade


Yann Tiersan



Yo La Tengo

Zola Jesus




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South Carolina

In South Carolina, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. SWARM (Students With A Responsible Message), a project of Advocates for Youth and Tell Them SC leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of the youth council members in training in August!


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In Florida, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. The Broward County Youth Council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members at the 2012 Urban Retreat!

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In Colorado, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. Colorado Youth Create, a project of Advocates for Youth and Colorado Youth Matter, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members on their way to tell their Senators and Representatives about the importance of good sex ed!



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Young people at Advocates’ partner organization Forward Together  surveyed and interviewed students to get more in-depth information about the sex education young people want to see in their school. Check it out!

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In California, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state.  California’s state sex ed leadership council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Forward Together, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.

Youth activists from California, at the Capitol and ready to lobby!


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Each year over 120 youth activists gather in Washington, D.C. to share expertise with one another and Advocates for Youth staff; learn about the latest findings and legislation that affect reproductive health; participate in trainings; and make a commitment to be lifelong advocates for young people’s reproductive and sexual health and rights. Then they head to Capitol Hill to educate their representatives on why comprehensive sexual health education is so important for young people.


Groups attending the conference included:

1 in 3 Organizers.  These college students attend a special pre-conference where they will learn how to support abortion rights through sharing women’s stories.  This year, the groups attending the Urban Retreat included:

State Youth Activist Councils from Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, and South Carolina.  Working with partner organizations, these groups of young people will motivate for comprehensive sex education and other important youth rights at the state and community level.

Campus Organizers.  These students at colleges and universities organize their fellow college students to work for youth reproductive and sexual health and rights.

International Youth Speak Out members from Jamaica, Nepal, and Nigeria lead councils in their home countries to promote youth inclusion and youth sexual health and rights.

International GLBT Health and Rights advocates work for the rights of LGBT people in their home countries.

International Youth Leadership Council members are US-based college students who advocate on behalf of young people in low and middle income countries.

Young Women of Color Leadership Council members advocate for HIV prevention and reproductive justice and the inclusion of young women of color in prevention programs.

YouthResource members advocate for LGBT rights in their communities and provide peer education and support to LGBT young people.

It’s a diverse gathering, but these young people all have one thing in common:  they are fierce, motivated activists working hard to make youth voices heard!

“I had such a wonderful time in DC (like always) advocating for Reproductive Justice and being around such amazing young leaders in our country! Urban Retreat always reminds me that I am never alone in this fight!” – Bree, Young Women of Color Leadership Council (more…)

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Check out this brand new factsheet about youth sexual and reproductive health in Alabama.  It’s full of info about why youth activists do the work they do and what they hope to accomplish in their state.

Alabama’s Youth: Focus on Reproductive and Sexual Health

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In Alabama, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state.  The Youth Activist Council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members on their way to tell their Senators and Representatives about the importance of good sex ed!

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My interview with Province of Dinagat Island Population Program Officer Lusio T. Mercado. He was speaker on youth issues during the UNI-MAD Regional Youth Summit last September 2, 2012. In my interview with Mr. Mercado, he discussed the programs and projects that the CARAGA Region and the Province of Dinagat Island is implementing in order to respond the issues of youth especially teenage pregnancy and early sexual encounter; among them are symposiums on teenage pregnancy, and youth camps. They also inculcate inter-faith dialogues and spiritual transformation. He is a native of Samar and speaks fluently on Waray but has been based in Dinagat Island for a very long time.

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion, Part 3a: Education

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited. My response and criticism can be found below.

1) What kind of government involvement, if any, is appropriate when it comes to sex education?

Tough question. The government has recently become involved with what for all time has been considered an intensely familial matter.

We imagine that a daughter told by her mother that she is beautiful, loved, of infinite value, worth a man who will cherish her as such, and that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," would be more likely to make holistic sexual choices and achieve inner happiness than if by watching a Planned Parenthood employee put a condom on a banana.

Similarly, we believe that a father telling his son that he is proud of him, that he loves him, that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," that it is no manliness to use women for pleasure, but it’s epically manly to sacrifice your desires for the good of your beloved, and to seek the woman who you will promise to be with forever, and once that promise is made, then fulfill that promise with your entire body in the act of sex — We believe this would be — in the long run — far more effective than being shown a slideshow of diseased penises and getting free rubbers from your gym teacher.

However, we’ve created a culture of awkwardness between parents and their kids, to the point where this discussion has become a far scarier one to have than it should be. We are inundated with the culture’s idea of sex from a young age, and thus parents feel like they’re competing with everything cool in a kid’s life. Want to talk to your son about this when he turns 12? 11 is the average age a boy is exposed to hardcore pornography. Want to tell your daughter her body is valuable and beautiful? She’s already seen the female body used to sell cars on TV.

So if the government is to be involved in sex education, we believe it should be finding people who can effectively speak against the current sexual culture that’s making everyone miserable. Maybe Obama could help us out. After all, he speaks very effectively on the importance of families staying together, and of fathers resisting the easy route of divorce and instead being present for their wife and children, to which we tip our hats.

2) Do you believe sex education courses belong in schools? If so, and if you were able to write the curriculum, what would you include?

See previous question. Add to it teaching the Creighton MODEL to girls.

3) As part of sex education classes, you would recommend the Creighton Model be taught to girls. If the boys in the class will presumably one day be married to women, isn’t it important for them to be familiar with the Creighton Model as well?

Absolutely. You’ve got fantastic ideas: Teach it to boys and girls — perhaps not together, as there could be a maturity gap in the discussion of things like luteal phases and mucus patterns — and watch the male respect of the intricacy and beauty of the female body soar.

4) You refer to girls as having "infinite value." How do you define this phrase? And is the same true for boys?

The value of the human person is immeasurable, priceless, and infinite. We hold this truth to be self-evident, that the value of all else pales and bows before the value of a single human life. And yes, the same is true for boys.

5) In your ideal conversation of how mothers talk to their daughters about sexuality, you say that girls are "worth a man who will cherish her as [having infinite value]." To me, this phrase suggests that her value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. I agree that every person deserves to have a partner (if they want one) that loves and cherishes them, and treats them well. But I don’t believe that virginity or fertility are the reasons someone deserves to be valued and treated well.

We had no intention of suggesting that a girl’s value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. That’s ridiculous. Girls are worth men who will cherish them as having infinite value for the simple reason that they are girls. That they are human persons. Dignity and infinite worth are products of being a human person, and girls — who are so often bombarded with the idea that their worth depends on being "hot", being productive, having sex, making children, being popular, being rich, etc. — need to be affirmed by their lovers in this manner: "You are of infinite value to me because you are."

6) Do you think it’s important for religion to be included in sexuality education?

No. Then again, we’re a little confused why it’s so important for the government to be involved with sex education, but whatever.

7) How does information of and access to condoms increase the chance of someone -who wants to remain abstinent- having sex?

There’s folks way more qualified to answer that question, so we’d again refer you to the following study.

Response and Criticism

1) The Federal Government has been involved with funding sex education programs, unfortunately giving hundreds of millions of dollars to abstinence-only programs that are proven failures. But there’s been no federal law about what is taught in these classes. Some states don’t require sex ed be taught at all. And the curriculum for sex education programs are decided largely by the school districts with consideration for community input.

Also, were you serious when you said that telling your child they’re loved is more effective at achieving a positive, health sexual outlook and practice than learning how to prevent STDs and pregnancy? I agree that the female body is often objectified in media, but, if anything, wouldn’t that make it easier to talk to your child about body image and sexual autonomy since you have so many accessible, cultural examples to make your point?

2) Much more on the Creighton Model later!

3) Since I don’t think you’re suggesting that the Creighton Model should start being taught in 5th or 6th grade (where they wouldn’t understand it anyway) or in jr. high (see how far you get talking about cervical music to a room of 13 year olds), I don’t think that a maturity gap is what you should be worried about.

4) If the term “infinite value” has the same meaning for boys as it does for girls, why have both times you said it, you’ve applied it to girls, especially considering that you made the choice to use different language for boys?

5) It’s a nice thought, but there’s no denying that girls are held to a much higher standard of “purity” than boys.

7) This link is to the Duke study, described above. If 1Flesh doesn’t feel they’re qualified to answer this basic question, I guess I’ll jump in. Knowing how to use a condom will not magically make a person who has chosen to be abstinent change their mind and make sex a “habit.” Sex is a personal and consensual choice. Just because I have a life-jacket doesn’t mean I’m going to go water skiing.

Next Up, in pt. 4: Sex

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited.

I assume you support abstinence-only programs. What are you thoughts on more comprehensive approaches? Also, how do you feel about classes including discussions on contraception being labeled comprehensive? To you, is it an appropriate term?

Actually, we find abstinence-only education decisively whack. Telling kids to just not have sex because it’ll give you STDs degrades the act of sex as ugly, patronizes the students as stupid, and — though we know there’s "evidence" both ways — doesn’t seem to be a magic cure.

Educating kids on contraception is no better. Such programs — well-intentioned though they may be — come with the philosophy that women cannot understand their own bodies, that men "are going to have sex anyways" and thus can’t control their bodies, and that the grand purpose of a thing as mind-blowing as sex is to satisfy a biological urge without biological consequences. There’s a reason the 2011 Duke study “Habit Persistence and Teen Sex”concluded that “programs that increase access to contraception are found to decrease teen pregnancies in the short run but increase teen pregnancies in the long run.” It creates a lame sexual c ulture, and reaps lame results.

No, if we had our way (which we’re entirely aware that we won’t) girls would be empowered to understand their own fertility cycle by being taught to chart with the Creighton MODEL, not as contraception, but as self-knowledge. Girls and guys would all learn about the nature of sex itself, in all its bonding beauty, from oxytocin to prostaglandins, from fetal development to pheremonal attraction. Girls would be told that they have immense value inherent in their very beings, and guys would be taken on a hike and told about how historically speaking, an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions, and to sacrifice ourselves for love.

We’re speaking unoffically, of course, and entirely off the top of our heads, of course, but the bottom line is this — elevate the sexual culture. It currently resides in the pits. We’ve got 1 in 5 women being raped, and 1 in 3 reporting some sort of sexual abuse. We’ve got untold millions of kids addicted to porn, and 63% of married women who’d rather be watching a movie than having sex with their husbands, and 1 in 4 teenage girls with an STD. Whatever we’ve been doing, it ain’t working.

So much to say here, so let me start with the Duke study and go from there. This is a quote from the Conclusion of the study you linked to:

There is much persistence in teen sexual behavior. If this habit persistence arises from a moral or psychological barrier that has been crossed once an individual has sex for the _rst time (a _xed cost) or the _rst time in a relationship (a transition cost), programs that increase rates of teen sexual activity may lead to higher pregnancy rates in the long run than in the short run.

I have issues with this and how you interpreted its meaning. First, yes, teens have sex. I don’t think I’d call sex a “habit,” though, and I certainly don’t think that in order to have sex you have to break through a “moral or psychological barrier.” The study also suggests that once you have sex (either for the first time or with a new partner) that sex is automatically a “habit” with a “cost.” They, and you, seem to say that birth control becomes less effective over time, which is not true. The only way that more sex leads to more pregnancy is that you have a greater number of possibilities of using birth control incorrectly or inconsistently. That’s not a problem with birth control. That’s a problem with poor education and limited access.

Now to the rest of it.

1) I’m glad that we both agree that abstinence-only programs are “whack.” Side note: No one has said “whack” in 15 years. What are you doing?
2) I disagree that learning about menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and contraception would make anyone feel like they “cannot understand their own bodies.”
3) Regardless of the type and quality of the sex education they are given, men are “going to have sex anyways;” 62% by the end of high school and 90% by the end of college. We agree that sex is a natural, healthy desire, but in my opinion, and in the facts, pre-marital sex is not due to an un-controlled (male) body; it’s about desire, pleasure, and fun. And it’s not cheapened by this. How can two people consenting to sexual pleasure be “cheap”? Also, who are you to decide whose sex is good enough?
4) Millions of kids are addicted to porn? Really?
5) Your solution to rape, sexual abuse, and STDs is to discourage the use of condoms? Come on now.

Can you comment on why you believe that sex has hormonal "bonding" elements? Why would it be necessary for the body to do this?

Well, from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense. If sex has the capacity to produce a new offspring, the last thing you want is your mate ditching you. It would ruin survival chances all around — especially for the offspring. Thus it seems that any individuals who became chemically bonded to each-other during sex — by chemicals like oxytocin — would have a greater chance of spreading their genes than individuals who didn’t. Natural selection would pick it up from there.

Actually, if we’re going to guess about the mating habits of primitive humans, I’d say it makes much more sense, evolutionarily, for a female to copulate with several males, ensuring that her children will be cared for by many.

You say "an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions." Doesn’t this suggest that sexual desire is harmful to young men? And doesn’t it assume that young women don’t also have strong sexual desires?

The key word here is "selfish" desires. Sexual desires are good, appropriate and beautiful. They make Shakespeare Shakespearean, and the world go round. The problem is that our culture tells men — and especially men — to take these beautiful desires — which by their nature look outwards, towards a beloved — and turn them inwards, making them selfish. Young men are inundated with the message that — in order to be a man — they have to get laid. Think about that term, "get laid." It’s entirely about "me." I get something. Not "I give myself", not "I share in something beautiful", but I get. When sexual desires become selfish, pornography makes a whole lot of sense. If it’s about me, who needs another person? The alarming fact that frequent viewers of pornography are more likely to believe that women enjoy rape, and more likely to label an act of sexual violence as sexual — and not violent — seems a natural consequence of divorcing sex from the idea of self-gift. If desires are selfish — about me — who cares about the other person? To which we here at 1Flesh react violently, and instead claim as our own a sexual culture that stands in radical, stark contradiction to the tyranny of selfishness: Sex as pure self-gift, all imitations be damned.

I 100% agree that using language like “get” and “take” instead of “give” and “share” are problematic (and patriarchal) when it comes to sexuality. I also agree that most pornography plays into these ideas. But I don’t think the idea of pornography is inherently selfish, and I certainly don’t think that it leads to a tyrannical sexual culture of selfishness. Yes, some people watch legitimately problematic porn, but I would suggest that material like that isn’t really about sex at all.

Can you cite the study where you read those stats on sexual violence?

It’s right here. There is a 22% increase in sexual perpetration; a 20% increase in negative intimate relationships; and a 31% increase in believing rape myths. A total sample size of 12,323 people comprised the present meta-analysis.

This study was conducted by the National Foundation for Family Research and Education. It appears that this Canadian organization does not have a website, and from everything else that I found on them, they appear to be on par with the American Family Association and the Family Research Council, both of which are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Meaning I don’t take seriously anything coming out of these groups.

Next Up, in pt. 3b: Education (continued)

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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“We don’t have high paid lobbyists; we don’t have a lot of money. Here are some of the things we do have: the most people living with HIV & AIDS, the most poverty, the most sexually transmitted infections, the most people without health insurance, the most vulnerable populations, the fastest growing epidemic, the least access to healthcare, the highest mortality rates, and the least resources to deal with this crisis.” – Kathie Heirs, CEO AIDS Alabma

Kathie Heirs’ blunt summation illustrates the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the southern United States. Hiers and her organization AIDS Alabama, which is part of the Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) at Advocates for Youth, appear in a new documentary entitled deepsouth. Directed by Lisa Biagiotti, the documentary follows the stories of individuals and communities fighting the spread of a HIV/AIDS epidemic in the domestic south. deepsouth examines the different facets of a culture that renders this epidemic invisible and perpetuates the silence around this issue. deepsouth shows that understanding the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is less about ‘that one time you should have used a condom’ and more about the compilation of factors (e.g. abstinence-only sex education, religious values, individualism, racism, homophobia, etc.) that lead to an epidemic.

The film premieres this week at the International AIDS Conference, which is under way here in Washington, DC. The conference and city is buzzing with hope for an AIDS free generation. With recent medical advances, like the FDA approval of Truvada and more clinical trials for HIV vaccines, Secretary Hilary Clinton’s goal of an AIDS free generation seems within reach. Yet, the focus on medicine and prevention do little to address the stigma and discrimination of HIV positive individuals or the real causes of a global epidemic. This week alone, HIV statistics on black men became consistent talking points and were publicized with few parallel messages on the discrimination, profiling and stereotyping of black men and the relations of sexism, racism, and heterosexism to a larger HIV/AIDS epidemic. Echoing Elton John, the key to developing a true global commitment to ending HIV/AIDS lies in deconstructing a fear of HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS phobia), a judgment of those living with it, and addressing other HIV/AIDS risk factors such as poverty and lack of education.

deepsouth pioneers this path by examining the cultural factors that contribute to discrimination through the lens of three main stories. Biagiotti follows Josh, a young, gay black man living with HIV in a rural community, Monica and Tammy, coordinators of a support group and retreat for HIV positive individuals, and Heirs, who tours the country seeking federal aid for the epidemic.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Biagotti lays down the focus of her documentary:
The reality is that HIV is less about safe sex and more about safety nets. HIV is symptomatic of so many other social ills. Silence, stigma and judgment create layers of secrecy. They can’t be “fixed” without a deep dive into the underlying reasons behind why people are quiet, what they’re ashamed of and why they’re afraid.

The documentary’s premier is tonight at 7PM at E Street Cinemas in Washington D.C., and will screen tomorrow, Wednesday, July 25 at both 3PM and 7PM.

Stay tuned for a second blog post later this week that reviews the film and discusses the role of HIV/AIDS phobia and racism in HIV/AIDS activism.

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Just in time for the International AIDS Conference here in Washington, DC, this week Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 6138, the Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012. This visionary bill creates a policy and financing framework for an AIDS-Free Generation.

Quoting from the Congresswoman’s press statement:

The Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012 increases and targets federal resources to maximize impact of HIV efforts, expands efforts to end stigma and discrimination, repeals and reforms laws that violate human rights and undermine the positive impact of resources, and maximizes federal coordinating efforts to drive greater efficiency and improved results in all HIV and related programs. The bill establishes a system to expand targeted efforts to prevent HIV infection using a combination of effective, evidence-based approaches and accelerated research and educational reforms to addressing the epidemic at home and abroad. The bill also provides for the expansion of comprehensive sex education, the distribution of condoms to people in prison, and improved provisions for monitoring HIV care.

In particular, the bill highlights the impact of the HIV & AIDS epidemic on young people both domestically and internationally as well as calls to expand comprehensive sex education and end funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Currently, there are 26 co-sponsors.

We applaud Congresswoman Lee for her leadership on this legislation and proudly support the bill and hope for its passage!

The text of the bill should be up soon and will be available here. For more information on the bill, check out this fact sheet.

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On Wednesday, House Republicans passed the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (otherwise known as Labor-HHS) FY 13 funding bill. In this bill, House Republicans defined their funding priorities and unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) sexual health took a tremendous hit. Here is a quick overview of how programs affecting young people’s sexual and rights fared:

Sex Education:
-The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, which funds evidence-based and promising programs was cut from $105 million to $20 million while Community Abstinence Education was increased from $5 million to $20 million.

Contraception & Preventive Care:
-Title X Family Planning program funds clinics to provide access to contraception and other preventive health services to low-income people, including youth. This program was completely zeroed out.

-Funding to all Planned Parenthood affiliates would be zeroed out if they used their own money to provide abortion care.

-Includes Blunt Amendment-like language which would allow employers to refuse coverage of any health benefit in their insurance plans for any religious and/or moral belief.

In addition, large pieces of the Affordable Care Act would go unfunded, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention would receive a massive cut and federal funding of needle exchange would be banned…again. Of course we can’t forget that once again the bill also withholds federal dollars from covering women’s access to abortion-except in the most extreme circumstances.

While these attacks are not a surprise, it is nonetheless disappointing and incredibly infuriating. Next up, the bill goes to the full Committee for a vote. We’ll keep you updated when that happens.

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This past weekend, I attended the National Council of La Raza’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas Nevada. I had the most amazing time in the NCLR conference. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead a workshop with an amazing individual, Ana Laura Rivera, in the Lideres Summit [the youth component of the NCLR Conference]. In addition, our coordinator Hemly Ordonez was (and is) amazing throughout this entire conference. Also, I met awesome DREAMers!

Ana Laura, from YWOC, and me!

Our presentation was titled, “Sex Education Advocacy: Helping Youth Make Sound and Good Decisions” and we had approximately forty high school and college students. Our presentation offered an array of valuable information. Also, we felt that it was crucial to engage our audience through thoughtful questions. For example, we asked, “What do you think consists of an effective sex education class?” and we even had a fun game called, “Named that Contraceptive!” in which we displayed a photo of a contraceptive and asked the audience to correctly name it. In this presentation, we began with defining sex education and the two types of sex education [abstinence-centered and comprehensive sex education]. Second, we described different methods of contraception and passed around a female condom so our audience could have an actual view of a type of contraceptive. Third, we provided statistics of birth rates among adolescents in the United States with a special emphasis on Latino adolescents. Lastly, we informed our audience on how they could effectively advocate for this issue and others. Overall, we had an informative and fun presentation with a receptive audience! After the presentation, Ana Laura and I were interviewed by the Huff Post Voces, the Spanish segment of AOL’s Huffington Post.

My flight was scheduled for 1AM Sunday but I missed it because I confused the times. However, if I would have left, I would not have learned many valuable things, especially about myself, on that exact Sunday. For example, Hemly helped me understand and shape my own identity as a Latina, as a young mother, and as an activist. I learned that it in order to shape your identity you must understand your past, history, and culture and how it fits in the larger context. In this blog, I want to talk about my culture, my upbringing on welfare programs, and teenage pregnancy.

On welfare programs…

In the Nuestras Voces, Nuestra Salud: A Critical Conversation About Latina Reproductive Health, a policy workshop, I became emotional because I finally understood the issues that Latinas face in a larger scale. I saw my entire life in those three simple PowerPoint presentations. I first saw it through my childhood as a Medicaid recipient. My three siblings and I grew up with the assistance of welfare, including Medicaid, housing, and food stamps. The first time my mother received Medicaid was when she was pregnant of me because it was considered a high risk pregnancy. She had not received it before because at the time she lived in Matamoros, Mexico and she believed that it was not correct to receive government services. Ultimately, she returned to the United States because she was extremely poor in Mexico, even though she was born in the U.S. and loved Matamoros. These programs helped us tremendously when my mother and father worked on minimum wage. On a separate note, we got sick often! Medicaid helped us when we were sick, when my brother broke his arm, when we needed a checkup to play sports. Even though we lived with a low socioeconomic status, we received quality healthcare insurance and medication because of Medicaid. Once I became pregnant, I knew that I needed healthcare insurance for my pregnancy, so I applied for Medicaid. Throughout my pregnancy, Medicaid helped me tremendously! It assisted me in providing for monthly and weekly medical visits, prenatal vitamins, and additional services I needed. It paid for my hospital bill when Frida was born. After the pregnancy, I placed Frida on Medicaid and I also received assistance from WIC. So in this presentation, I also learned about the Affordable Health Care Act and became ecstatic to learn about the services that would assist many people without medical insurance. At the moment, my brother, sister, and myself are without insurance and I immediately thought of them. I dislike thinking that my brother or my younger sister cannot visit a doctor because he has no medical insurance or sufficient money.

On teenage pregnancy…

On a booklet titled “2011 Bringing Opportunity Home: A Latino Public Policy Agenda for the 112th Congress” [provided by NCLR] it stated [in regards to teen pregnancy from a study in 2006],

“Among racial and ethnic minorities, Latinas ages 15-19 have the highest teen pregnancy rate (126.6 per 1000) and highest teen pregnancy rate (70.1 per 1000). To put this into perspective, 52% of Latinas get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and Latinas accounted for nearly 33% of births to teens ages 15-19 in 2009.”

Clearly, I fell into this statistic. Even though the Latino birth rate has decreased, we still possess the highest teen birth rate [Texas ranks fourth!]. I also want to note that on a study conducted by the CDC, teen childbearing in the U.S. cost approximately $10.9 billion. These are the reasons why:

“Women who become pregnant as a teenager face a host of challenges, particularly as they relate to education. Furthermore, the effects of a teen pregnancy go beyond the teen mother. Children of teen mothers have higher rates of poverty and are more likely to repeat a grade and drop out of school… Many of these factors have a disproportionate effect on Latina teenagers given the challenges they already face in obtaining a quality education.”

The presenters also mentioned that an overwhelming amount of Latinas do not utilize contraceptives because they cannot afford it and the existing stigmatization.

Teenage pregnancy and young parents face many social inequalities that hinder their development and the possibility of realizing their full potential. In addition, we must provide strong bases of support for young parents to counter these obstacles. Luckily, I have been able to continue with my post-secondary education because of the tremendous help my mother and government services have given to me. I see that they want me to succeed for myself and for my daughter. Initially, I viewed my goals with those motivations in mind but now I have realized that it is much more than that. I am motivated by other pregnant teenagers and young parents. I am motivated by the fact that I am breaking those barriers to success and stigmatization I face for being a young parent. I am motivated by the fact that I am an example that it can be done and that we can help others.

The common theme for this year’s NCLR conference was sparking a movement. For this issue, we spark a movement by initiating the conversation. We must engage in honest and open conversations with adolescents, without the omission or distortion of information. It does make a difference.

In a workshop at the AFY Urban Retreat, we were asked to write on an index card why we are acitivists and we were asked to pass them around and read them out loud. I was given this one and it resonated with my life so much that I decided to keep it. I have had it ever since.

On my Mexican culture…

In this conference, many of the presenters spoke about how their parents raised them with a strong cultural upbringing. They embraced their culture. It is important to note that in Texas, I did not receive any education on my culture and how it played an important role in Texas. It was not until I was enrolled in Mexican American Studies [in college!] that I learned about the Chicano Movement. I am ashamed to say that I did not consider myself a woman of color until I attended the AFY’s Urban Retreat last year. Whenever I was presented with a questionnaire that asked for my race, I did not select white or black. I knew [or at least I thought I did] that I was not white but I was not white, I was Hispanic. However, when other people had “white” on their birth certificate we were all confused. Now I understand that many Mexican Americans registered as white to their birth certificate to avoid many oppressive methods that were placed on them. So, there is confusion when it comes to our role in Texas and the United States. I did not know the history of my ethnicity and I did not understand it. I never questioned it because it was never taught. Our culture was not taught or embraced in public schools. This is a problem in Texas that must be undone. We must teach children and adolescents about our culture, our history, and our past. We can change our future if we become educated on our history. It does not matter if Latinos are the fastest growing group in the United States, we must still become informed, teach others, and empower them to become civically engaged.

Why Learn Mexican American History?

     1. Awareness of the largest U.S. minority
2. Omission and/or distortion in traditional U.S. history
3. Importance to self-esteem which affects
a. Values
b. Opinions
c. Lifestyle Choices
d. Stimulation of Learning
4. Significance to ethnic literacy and how it affects our
a. Daily lives
b. Society
c. Transactions- locally, regionally, nationally, transnationally
5. Awareness of Mexican American contributions to U.S. history
6. Creation of a school climate which appreciates diversity 

It took me this long to really understand all of this! Even though I am considered low income and a young mother, I do not see it as an excuse to no be successful. It may be more difficult but not impossible. Now more than ever, it is crucial to understand and recognize oppressive systems. We must not stay quiet and we must question and speak out against something that is not right. We must exercise our power through voting and civic engagement [not just in election years]. Before doing this, we must create a culture of participation[credit to NCLR’s CEO and President].

From the Barefoot Guide!

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  Comprehensive sex education, one of the objective of yalc (youth activist leadership council) is the need of today’s generation education. Giving knowledge regarding sex education helps to overcome the risk of the sexual behaviour.Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. This is because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS . It is also argued that providing sex education helps to meet young people’s rights to information about matters that affect them, their right to have their needs met and to help them enjoy their sexuality and the relationships that they form other. Research shows that teenagers who receive sex education that includes discussion of contraception are more likely than those who receive abstinence-only messages to delay sexual activity and to use contraceptives when they do become sexually active.
In Nepal , the subject has been introduced from class 6 but the srh information has been included only in class 9 and 10. The education about sex education has been overlapped with reproductive education which is almost different from each other.In the present curriculum , grade 6 and 8,includes only about reproductive areas like HIV ,methods of family planning and other STDS which really lags behinds the information regarding their bodily change and their curiosity regarding attraction towards the opposite sex and others. Students know more about more than those in text books through other sources by that time. Students are exposed to the subject much later than when they should actually have been. All the information is flooded in class 9 all of a sudden rather than gradually introducing age appropriate topics. Several topics are mentioned just but not explained. It means that the curiosity of the students will grow. For e.g.. Process of sex is mentioned but not explained. Similarly, abortion has just been mentioned, but with least explanation. And like the simple sharing information to parents and older siblings are also not included .if such things are focused and put in the curicullum then the students will share their curiosity and share their problems with their parents which will be guided in a right direction.

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In case you missed it, this morning the Supreme Court released their health care decision. There were two major pieces in their announcement:

• The mandate was upheld in 5-4 decision. Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority (shocking!-really it is). The majority has different opinions as to why the mandate is constitutional, but for the most part it considers the mandate a tax which Congress can legally impose on people.
• Medicaid expansion was also upheld, but should states choose not to participate in the expansion, they cannot be penalized by the federal government (i.e. they can’t have their current Medicaid dollars pulled if they don’t participate in the expansion). That unfortunately means that states will be able to opt-out of the expansion which is bad for young people, people living with HIV/AIDS, etc.

We can only hope states won’t opt-out of the Medicaid expansion which is due to start in 2014.

The rest of the health care law stands (young people can stay on their parent’s health insurance, state sex education money, birth control/women’s health regs, can’t exclude people from coverage based on pre-existing conditions, etc.). Now we’re just counting down until the rest of the bill being implemented. To see what is happening when, check out this timeline: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/.

For more information on the Supreme Court’s decision, these SCOTUS blog pieces are helpful:

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When most people think of Texas they don’t think of LGBTQ pride. In fact, they think the opposite. They think of state that, until a landmark 2003 Supreme Court ruling, made same-sex sexual activity a criminal offense for which you could face arrest. They think of a state that overwhelmingly passed an amendment to its constitution in 2005 which banned equal marriage. They think of a state that does not have any legal protection for LGBTQ people against discrimination by employers. They think of a state that provides sex education that either demonizes LGBTQ youth or pretends they don’t exist.

In many ways, these ideas of Texas are accurate, but there is another side to Texas – the Texas we should be thinking about. There is a Texas in which Houston, the largest city in state and the fourth largest city in the country, has the nation’s first openly-lesbian mayor. There is a Texas which has some of the largest and most numerous pride parades and festivals each year. There is a Texas where the Mayor of El Paso stood up for equal domestic partner benefits for LGBTQ city employees and caused a national conversation. There is a Texas which just nominated its second ever openly-LGBTQ individual to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, a Latina from El Paso.

There is a Texas which is changing – one that is young and full of open-minded people who celebrate each other’s individuality. Texas is a big, diverse state – something that we’re proud of. More and more, young LGBTQ Texans are feeling confident to speak out and demand equal treatment and respect for their community. I’m lucky to work with some of these amazing young people every day. In particular, I have been inspired by James Lee, one of our Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative student leaders, who has grown to become an amazing activist for equality. He’s worked diligently to raise awareness for LGBTQ equality on his campus and in his city. I’m also proud to work alongside so many youth allies to the LGBTQ community. With their work and the rise of millennials into political power, I am confident that Texas will be a place of great change. June is a month Texans should be proud of the achievements we’ve had and will continue to have for LGBTQ equality. The way I see it, if things are changing in Texas – they’re changing everywhere.

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While searching the youth led story in Nepal I went through lot of people asking them about their story, their life and their way of living. Their stories shocked me and made me think about for couple of days. But among those stories, there was one such story which I thought must be known by everyone and can be used as a lesson to all who think that their suffering is painful than that of others.
Nagira Khootan, a normal Muslim girl in a small village of Kapilvastu called Krishnanagar, is supposed to be a “curse” or “sin” done in previous life. With the desire to get boy, a girl named Najira Khootan was born. She had 5 sisters with no brother and it was also regarded as a curse for her. From the very beginning of her life she was subjugated and unloved by her parents. Not only from the parental love but also she was deprived of nutritious food and also from the education. She along with all her sister had to do all the household works and was treated as servant in her own house.
With the phase of time, she entered into adolescent period where she noticed physical changes. She was unknown and scared when she encountered menstruation period and the pain that she gets during those periods. She was in a thought that this was some kind of disease, she never knew about it. She was also scared to share it with her family as well. Sometimes she even noticed blood coming out even then she was silent but one day when tolerance was beyond her perimeter she expressed it with her sister only then she came to know about it which made her to tolerate a lot of pain within herself. She remembers what would be her situation at that time when she was unable to say a word to her parents about the change. Her mother was also a female but never tried to understand her because she was also grown up in same conservative society because she desired to get a boy for her family for easy doorway to heaven.
Time was passing but she was unaware about the sex education and way to handle it. Her marriage was fixed at the age of 16 with the boy who is 20 years older than her. Sudden case of marriage came to her life when her father saw her talking to a boy living nearby. Since she was unknown about simple sex education and other basic knowledge she entered to her married life. She was also unaware about the family planning and she became pregnant at the age of 18.She even did heavy work during those days which caused adverse effect in her health. Being pregnant at such a small age and carrying out household activities and lack of proper nutrients her health was deteriorated. Due to all these reason her child was born in critical situation and became malnutrient, unfortunately her baby died after ten days. She had return to her daily activities the day after due to which her health was more deteriorated.
After 2 years she again became mother and gave birth to a baby girl but as her father, her husband also wanted baby boy. She became pregnant five times in the hope and desire of a baby boy which was fulfilled at the sixth attempt. She never ever had any family planning measure nor her husband. Due to all these reasons, now she is struggling for her life.
If she would have provided sex education during her teenage she could have come up with her pain and obstacles and if she could have known about family planning she could have used certain measures to control her pregnancy. And the most important thing if she was provided with parental care she would never ever have encountered such pain in her life.

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

May 27- June 2

Stats this week: 26 blogs by 15 writers

Planned Parenthood “sting” as pointless as usual- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

So: the video is about a theoretical medical procedure that would be highly statistically unlikely in this country.
Plus, the counselor doesn’t advise anything illegal.
Thus, having no real whistle to blow, the video uses the fictional scenario to get you to respond emotionally to the idea of sex-selective abortion and to call for it to be outlawed.

Yo te conozco, bacalao: Recognizing PRENDA for what it is- by AFY_Aimee

Inside this post:

Now you might think that Congressman Franks, if he really cared about ending this practice, would want to restrict all methods of sex selection. But you would be wrong. Because despite everything Franks says, this isn’t about sex discrimination or caring about female fetuses. This is an abortion ban in disguise.

Remember Sarah Baartman- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

In 1810 an English doctor on a ship, William Dunlop, met her and convinced her to travel to Europe with him. She agreed and Dunlop took her with him to Europe where she was put on display for others to view and given the name “The Hottentot Venus.” Her body shape and size was seen as oddly disfigured by Europeans and Dunlop.

Mothers, Daughters, and Loving Yourself- by U-DGurl

Inside this post:

Growing up I never got the “right’ messages of sex or rights of young people, especially young girls. Sexually explicit materials and romantic books that exaggerate a woman’s sexual experience were my primary sources of information, but we all know how terrible those things can be. What’s worse, young girls are “encouraged” to emulate these women that they clearly are not. Up to a certain age, I thought it was acceptable for men to beat their women; acceptable that much older men would lure 25 year olds to their rooms; acceptable that no girl is special enough to desire a life except that with a husband and children.

Lack of Sex Education Among Young Women in the Latino Community- by Brenda_Bri

Inside this post:

Lately I have been trying to inform almost every girl about reproductive justice that I encounter that seems to lack sex education. I try explaining their rights as a young women, sexual awareness, and how sex doesn’t make you a bad person. I enjoy informing young women about sex because I know I’m doing a great thing. I know that everything I explain to them will be spread and eventually lead them to make better decisions.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My blog posts this week:
Four reasons I’ve decided not to weigh myself
New Mexico Health Official Asked to Resign for Suggesting Teens Use Condoms
Rape Victim Denied EC and Rape Kit Because it’s Legal in Oklahoma for Doctors To Do That (TW)

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          “My parents would kick me out the house if they found out I was pregnant .” “My parents never talk about sex.” I didn’t know there was free birth control available for me.” These are the types of things I hear young Latinas around my community say. How much more can lack of sex education affect the Latino community/ Roughly, 50% of young Latinas get pregnant. These means they are having unprotected sex. Most of these pregnancies are unplanned. Why do Latinas have the highest pregnancy rate than any other race? Could it be the cultural morals/values, social pressure, or religious pressure? How does the media usually portray Latinas? These three factors are the main reason why young women don’t know they have choices and options. Reproductive justice is something really important that needs to be known but many young women from Latino backgrounds don’t know what reproductive system means. If most of the young women knew what reproductive justice was then they’ll probably make better choices.

          Cultural values in the Latino community greatly affect the decisions made by young women. “That’s my son” is what the typical Latino father says with brag when his son is involved with many girls. But what about “That’s my girl” when she’s seen with a lot of guys. She’s expected to stay a virgin till marriage. She can’t even have a boyfriend because her parents will assume she’s having sex. And if a young women decides to have sex there’s nothing wrong with that. Girls shouldn’t feel less or dirty when they are ready to have sex. Young women Latinas are set to believe that sex is dirty. That is the reason why Latino parents tend not to talk about sex at all with their children. Many of the Latino parents come from an environment where sex wasn’t spoken in their homes so they carry on the idea to their future generations that NOT talking about sex is okay. What they don’t know is that this is affecting the choices their children make. They feel as though talking about sex may encourage their children to have sex which actually is informing them to practice safe sex in the future. Children can’t speak to their parents about sex because they were raised to not have sex till marriage. This discourages young Latinas to talk to their parents about sex.

          Young Latinas are constantly put into social and religious pressure when making choices. Why do people always have to decide for them? Young women have the right to decide for themselves and they should know that. They should know that if they’re pregnant they can decide whether to have they baby or not. They should also know that there is access available for birth control and std testing for them, race, social status, or color doesn’t matter. Most of the Latino’s religion is Catholic which makes a young Latina’s choices limited. They can’t have sex until marriage, they can’t have an abortion, and so on. These types of limitations makes Latinas think that having sex before marriage makes them look dirty so they rather not talk about it. Embarrassment or the feeling of getting judged about talking sex has come from families that don’t talk about sex. This makes it so much harder for girls to go look for help, support, and obtain accurate information. Having sex doesn’t make anybody a bad person. Sex is normal and if a young women is ready to have sex she should know how to protect herself and her partner from unplanned pregnancies, and std transmissions. Everyone has the right to have and know their choices.

          The media usually portrays Latina women as unintelligent and getting pregnant at an early age. For example in the movie Quincienera a young 15 year old Latina has an unplanned pregnancy. Her character shows that she knew nothing about sex. When young Latinas watch this movie, they seem to be watching an “unintelligent person”. This is definitely not the type of role model young Latinas need. They need an encouragement from a smart educated Latina but the media tends to rarely show positive models for Latinas.

          Ever since I started my internship in the Cuidate Program I notice how much help the Latino community needs with sex education. Starting with my school peers I noticed the lack of sex education. Lately I have been trying to inform almost every girl about reproductive justice that I encounter that seems to lack sex education. I try explaining their rights as a young women, sexual awareness, and how sex doesn’t make you a bad person. I enjoy informing young women about sex because I know I’m doing a great thing. I know that everything I explain to them will be spread and eventually lead them to make better decisions. I started to talk to the 9th graders that I tutor at my high school. I asked them if their parents talked about sex and what they think about their children having sex. Most of them responded that they weren’t aloud to have a boyfriend and they were expected to marry virgins based on their parent’s religion morals. Something that caught my attention was when a girl said she hasn’t had her period. I asked her if she has gone to the doctor with her mom. She said “ It feels really uncomfortable talking to my mom because she never talks about sex related things” I told her about reproductive justice and how she has rights to know about her body and what to do with it. I told her there was a free clinic at school available and completely confidential. I encouraged her to go and see a doctor and ask her concerns about her delayed period. She responded “ I feel weird telling a doctor that I haven’t had my period. What if I’m the only one in the school that doesn’t have her period? Isn’t the doctor going to think that I’m asking a stupid question? Can I even go to the doctor for that?” I told her not to worry that the doctor isn’t going to judge her and that doctors see all sorts of patients with different problems. To encourage her and make sure she went to the free clinic I told her I would be more than welcome to go with her to the clinic. I lead her to the clinic and she got an appointment. I told her to tell her friends to tell their friends about reproductive justice and to take advantage of the free clinic available at school. When we came out of the clinic she said thank you. Those two words meant a lot because I know that at least one person now knows more about sex and she’ll be making better decisions in her life. By just telling her I am sure she will tell her friends and her friends are going to tell their friends and eventually the word reproductive justice will mean something for those young women from Latina backgrounds. I will continue to spread the word and keep being an advocate and provide information about HIV, safe sex awareness, and the importance of reproductive justice within the Latino community.

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I have recently been hired as the staff member who works with the Broward County Youth Council. I am in awe of the work the students on the council have already accomplished. Bringing comprehensive sexual health education to Broward County schools is a daunting task, one that they have faced with absolute determination.

Before becoming part of this collaboration between Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth, I was a Community Health Educator for Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. As an educator, I became painfully aware of the need for comprehensive sex-ed in our schools. Talking to teens about sex and hearing first-hand the misconceptions and misinformation they had about sex and about their bodies, only increased my resolve to ensure that all teens are given REAL sex education [hyperlink: bit.ly/REALSexEdpledge]

Sex education isn’t just about pregnancy and disease prevention; it’s about learning how to make informed decisions about your health and your life. In a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, we cannot afford to keep our teens in the dark. A lack of knowledge about sexual health can cost our teens their future.

By not providing the information to our teens about how they can protect themselves, we are endangering their lives. The majority of teens that I have encountered can’t tell you the different ways that HIV can be transmitted, or they don’t know about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the fact that it can cause cancer in both men and women.

When we give teens knowledge about their sexual health, we are giving them the tools they need to stay healthy and have a fulfilling life. The Broward County Youth Council is made up of teens and young adults who are a part of the community in Broward County. They understand the need for Real Sex education better than anyone, and that is why they are so passionate about their work. Every member knows that this information can affect their lives, the lives of their friends, and the lives of everyone in their community. I am really excited to work with the BCYC and to help them bring comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education to Broward County schools!

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My friend has taught his three daughters, aged six to 11, never to sit on any man’s lap, for they may be unaware of the effect they may have on the man.

I am impressed with his ability to protect his daughters from unnecessary risks.

Thirteen years ago, when my eldest son was 12, he was invited to go swimming with a stranger. He agreed but informed us first.

We confronted the stranger and, needless to say, were glad that they did not swim together.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 per cent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members – i.e. family friends, babysitters, childcare providers and neighbours.

Child pornographers and other abusers who are strangers may contact children via the Internet.

While I do not have the data for Singapore, I feel that parents must take proactive steps to protect their children before it is too late.

My children have been trained to know that sexual advances from adults are wrong. We tell them what are "okay" and "not okay" touches, that no one must touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We maintain open communication, encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences.

After their eighth birthday, they can ask anything about sex. Before that age, they should just accept our instructions.

Some of their questions included how babies are formed, why men masturbate, whether a girl can have sex without getting pregnant and why watching pornography is wrong when most of their friends are already doing so.

One of their acquaintances even boasted that his supply of porn DVDs came from his father. Another child, who is 12, downloaded porn on his iPhone and shared it with his friends. It is a step away from acting out what they see.

Children are curious by nature.

So, parents need to answer these questions, not abdicate responsibility to schools, trusting naively that a few lessons on sexual education is enough.

These lessons provide only information, with no assurance that children would make the right decision as to their sexual experiences.

Children often act based on their attitudes towards an issue, attitudes anchored in a family’s beliefs.

Different families have different beliefs, but some are common to all, for example, that our bodies are not objects to be toyed with.

Other beliefs, like on contraception, abortion, divorce, the role of masturbation, visiting a prostitute, are more challenging.

Adults compromise on some of these but may be unhappy if their children follow suit.

Parents have to examine their fundamental beliefs about sex and sexuality and walk the talk. Children are sharp; they know when we are insincere.

If they do not think us trustworthy in this aspect, they would seek other sources of information, such as friends, the Internet or adult magazines

Sex education is parents’ most important gift to children, as any misinformation may harm their health in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

We should start as soon as possible to inoculate our children against pedophiles.

Source: www.todayonline.com

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While going through the course of health education in Nepal, it’s really saddening to see the syllabus as the main focus for sexual health and reproduction is given in class 9. When I was studying, we didn’t actually have the details except the STDs and STIs mainly focusing on HIV/AIDS and reproduction system of male and female. But the time has changed and the young people are being more exposed to the issue of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health. Many people used to suffer due to lack of information but now they know it from other mediums like their friends, internet, TV, etc. if not given in their text. With this we can see that it is risky for the young people of our society to get wrong information and also get carried away with the peer pressure as it is the very main problem of adolescents.

It has been found that on an average boy starts masturbating from the age of 10-15. This shows that it is high time for them to know about themselves, about sexuality and their reproductive health during the class of 5 or 6. For this I think that education is a must thing. Adolescent find it difficult and awkward to talk about their growing pubic hair, growing of breasts, wet dreams, getting attracted to the opposite sex, etc. to their elders or parents. Especially for young girls, many boys and men try to take advantage of their innocence and sexually abuse or harass them and yet the girls can’t come and tell it to their parents unknowingly or knowingly because of awkwardness.

Sex education is a guideline for the adolescents to deal with their problems and fight for themselves. Because parents have a thought that their children will learn in school and teachers think that their parents will teach them at home. This leads for the youngsters to suffer and probability of getting the wrong information is very high. If they learn to cope up with the changes in themselves, it will be easier for them to deal with their life and help their friends or younger ones with their queries too. So Sex education is a must and also the content must be appropriate. Accordingly to the age and class the syllabus must be designed. The teacher, who is teaching health, should also be good. The teacher should make the classroom environment very friendly so that he/she should not feel awkward to talk to the students neither should students feel. If possible some extra knowledge should also be provided to the students rather from the text but should be appropriate to their age. Students should not find difficulty to ask their queries to teachers. This way the abortion rate will decrease, people will have a healthy married life and there will be control in population. The main change in our society will be the attitude of people. The word SEX will not be a taboo in our society which means that people will start talking about HIV/AIDS freely leading to the decrease of rate of infected people.

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Late last year, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 (aka PRENDA) to ban abortions on the basis of race and sex selection (more on that later). With PRENDA coming up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today, anti-abortion hoax video auteur Lila Rose just happened to release a new video “sting operation” claiming to document sex selection at Planned Parenthood clinics. Because these totally-not-coordinated attacks on abortion access have nothing to do with each other, House Republicans made a last minute change to the bill – dropping “race selection” language completely*. Now, we just happen – totally a coincidence, we promise! – to have Congress voting on a “sex selection abortion ban” the day after a new “undercover sex selection abortion exposé” tries to hijack the news cycle.


On the surface, this legislation – along with similar bills in state legislatures – pretends to care about communities of color, who access abortion at higher rates than their White counterparts. If signed into law, PRENDA would impose civil and criminal penalties on health care providers who terminate a pregnancy for reasons of race and/or sex. In other words, this law would now make it illegal to have an abortion for a particular reason. By evoking the images of two iconic freedom fighters and using language borrowed from the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. Franks obviously hoped to distract us from his true intentions.

Let’s be clear – this is not about protecting women and girls.

So what are we really talking about? Sex selection consists of using a variety of medical procedures to ensure having a child of a preferred sex. It takes many forms, including sperm sorting, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, and abortion. It’s based on the idea that sex equals gender, and gender equals expected social behaviors and norms. In societies where men enjoy a higher social status than women, there is enormous pressure on women to have sons, including threats and acts of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.

And the truth is banning sex selection does not protect women and girls from this pressure. In fact, it just reinforces the gender inequality that already exists.

Now you might think that Congressman Franks, if he really cared about ending this practice, would want to restrict all methods of sex selection. But you would be wrong. Because despite everything Franks says, this isn’t about sex discrimination or caring about female fetuses. This is an abortion ban in disguise.

Sex selection, however, is real and does take place in many countries around the world, including right here in the United States. Unlike what Rep. Franks proposes, we can discourage gender bias without undermining women’s reproductive self-determination and health care. We want women to be able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. PRENDA is a ploy to weaken support for reproductive justice in communities of color by stigmatizing women of color’s reproductive choices and saying they are not fit to make these decisions in the first place.

As reproductive health, rights and justice activists, if we really care about the lives of women and girls, we should focus on dismantling the gender stereotypes that drive the pressure to have sons. We should ensure access to comprehensive sex education and the full spectrum of reproductive health services.

We have a saying in Spanish, “Yo te conozco bacalao, aunque vengas disfrazado.” (“I know you, codfish, although you come disguised.”) Despite his newfound concern for women of color, Congressman Franks doesn’t fool me. He can hide behind the legacies of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass and co-opt human rights language, all he wants, but that doesn’t change his real agenda. He wants to ban abortion. Period. And I see through his disguise.

* Even though race selection seems to have been dropped from the bill – for now – it’s worth touching on the topic for a moment since most of these bills propose banning abortion in the case of sex and/or race selection. RACE SELECTION DOES NOT EXIST. It’s not real. Race selection is a bogeyman made up by anti-abortion activists to attack women of color, especially Black women. Women of color experience unintended pregnancies and abortions at higher rates than White woman. You and I probably understand that is because women of color have less access to reproductive health care services, including contraception, resulting in higher rates of unintended pregnancies. To anti-abortion activists, the higher abortion rates mean that women of color are terminating pregnancies because they do not want to have babies of color. Abortion opponents say any abortion by a woman of color is tantamount to genocide. But to paraphrase reproductive justice activist Loretta Ross, “What Black woman doesn’t know she’s having a Black baby?”

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During an interview with KOAT-TV earlier this month, the Chief Medical Officer of the New Mexico Department of Health was asked about the stunning, 50% increase in cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia among teens compared to this time last year. As graduations are celebrated and summer begins, New Mexico also finds itself at the top of Guttmacher’s list of highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. In light of these numbers, the reporter from KOAT asked Dr. Erin Bouquin a simple question.

Reporter: What are you guys trying to tell kids?

Bouquin: Use condoms. Condoms are very, very important in controlling sexually transmitted diseases.

Reporter: And abstinence?

Bouquin: Abstinence. I like the ABCs: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Birth Control.

One hour after the interview aired, Bouquin received an e-mail, asking her to meet with Catherine Torres, the state’s Health Secretary. It was during this meeting that Bouquin was asked to resign because she “didn’t meet the governor’s expectations.”

Yet, when questioned about the resignation, both Governor Susana Martinez and the Department of Health both denied any connection between the interview and Dr. Bouquin’s resignation. Scott Darnell, the governor’s spokesperson, even went so far as to say that Bouquin’s comments on birth control did not conflict with the governor’s views.

The governor is a proponent of taking a balanced and multi- pronged approach to controlling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; there is nothing in Dr. Bouquin’s interview that would conflict with that approach.

If you‘re not buying this, you’re not alone. The now-former Chief Medical Officer believes the reason she was asked to leave couldn’t be clearer.

On the day I was asked to leave, I said the word condom three times on the news.

In an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, Bouquin says that the department is “becoming more political,” and explains that it’s “recently applied for Title V federal funding that stresses abstinence-based sex education.”

Yet, I do see a silver lining here.. Even though the state “does not mandate sex education or regulate its content if taught” (with the exception of information on HIV), and apparently just forced someone to resign for advocating safe sex, they still felt the need to cover up why she was forced to resign, fearing it would make them “look bad” if it was clear that they got rid of her because she said in public that condoms prevent the spread of STIs and STDs.

A 2000 poll commissioned by the New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition found that 90% of adults in the state support sex education for high school students, along with 78% supporting sex ed for middle school students. I believe it is this overwhelming acceptance of sex education that contributed to Governor Martinez making the baseless claim that she prefers a “multi-pronged approach” to sex ed. As 90% of New Mexico could tell you governor, if condoms aren’t one of your “prongs,” you’re aren’t doing it right.

You can contact Governor Martinez through her website, or at 505-476-2200. There is also a petition up at Change.org asking for Erin Bouquin to be reinstated.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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It is us, who knows the twin aspects of early marriage and pregnancy; it’s them, whose minds are dumb on conservative traditional norms and values. Who believes if said that sexual excitement will be returning after teen as well? Who cares if said you got a virgin boy/girl even you married at 25 ages? Who believes you if said no children even after 2 years of marriage? These are all propounding questions still burning in the rural part of world. Though thought optimum sexual excitement during adolescent, there are also risk of complication and diseases during the sexual course. The old concepts and explanation about sex and sexual behavior has been changed, this credit goes to the sex education. The main medium for this in Nepal are: teachers, radio, newspapers, TV, Doctors and Health professionals. The fact sheet by WHO 2012 shows following facts:
• About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and two million girls under the age of 15 give birth every year. Worldwide, one in five girls has given birth by the age of 18. In the poorest regions of the world, this figure rises to over one in three girls. Almost all adolescent births – about 95% – occur in low- and middle-income countries. Within countries, adolescent births are more likely to occur among poor, less educated and rural populations.
• An estimated three million girls aged 15-19 undergo unsafe abortions every year.
• In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years.
• Stillbirths and newborn deaths are 50% higher among infants of adolescent mothers than among infants of women aged 20-29 years.
• Infants of adolescent mothers are more likely to have low birth weight.
Several factors contribute to adolescent births, in many societies, girls may be under pressure to marry and bear children early, or they may have limited educational and employment prospects. In low- and middle-income countries, over 30% of girls marry before they are 18 years of age; around 14% before the age of 15. Moreover, married adolescents are likely to become pregnant and give birth in accordance with social norms.

Education, on the other hand, is a major protective factor for early pregnancy: the more years of schooling, the fewer early pregnancies. Birth rates among women with low education are higher than for those with secondary or tertiary education. There is a lack of sexuality education in many countries. A global coverage measure related to sexuality education estimates that only 36% of young men and 24% of young women aged 15-24 in low- and middle-income countries have comprehensive and correct knowledge of how to prevent HIV. Having babies during adolescence has serious consequences for the health of the girl and her infant, especially in areas with weak health systems. In some countries, adolescents are less likely than adults to obtain skilled care before, during and after childbirth. Pregnant adolescents are more likely than adults to have unsafe abortions. An estimated three million unsafe abortions occur globally every year among girls aged 15-19 years. Unsafe abortions contribute substantially to lasting health problems and maternal deaths.
After all, education on sex is thought to be with great responsibility. It is the way of having equity and understanding the sexual phenomenon, consequences of unsafe sex, and the overall healthy sexual life.

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 As a member of the Broward County Youth Council, I was responsible for getting students to complete surveys about sex education. We are trying to find out what information and education that students in Broward County are getting.
When we began surveying students, I was nervous about what people would say. It was challenging for me to stand in front of a classroom filled with students and ask them to to fill out a survey about sex education. It may be that I was more nervous about the maturity level they may or may not have. Thankfully, most students were excited to complete the survey. Of course there were some that weren’t keen on the idea, and that’s fine too. They weren’t mean and angry about the fact that I asked.
I was surprised the most by the fact that the students thought teens should older be when they received sex education. Girls were the majority that believed they wait to learn about sex when they are older. I was shocked that some students didn’t know that oral sex could transmit STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including HIV/AIDS. When the students finished the surveys, many would ask me questions and for advice on sexual health!
This experience has taught me a lot. I learned that there are too many young people don’t know basic information about sexual health or health care such as birth control. I am glad I had an opportunity to take part in the Broward County Youth Council this year. I enjoy helping people, and fighting for comprehensive sex education is definitely something that students need to protect themselves. I love the fact that I helped others gain that knowledge.
You can take the survey: http://bit.ly/HealthyTeensYouthSurvey
The Broward County Youth Council is a project of the Florida Healthy Teens Campaign sponsored by Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and Advocates for Youth. The purpose of the council is to advocate for comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education that provides teens with the information and skills for responsible decision-making. www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org<http://www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org>

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Deborah Paz helps to lead the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Texas at El Paso – a part of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI). Deborah is beginning her second year in this program and enjoys advocating for comprehensive sex ed and LGBTQ equality in her community

As a straight ally, I deeply care about LGBTQ equality and I often focus my activism on this issue. I’ve realized that I care about this issue so passionately because I truly believe no one should be punished for simply being themselves or for expressing who they are.

To me, homophobia/heterosexism means the belief in stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTQ people. It is part of a patriarchal society that deems certain people inferior and creates social normative barriers and stigmas toward different people. Homophobia, in my opinion, fails to address the natural essences and diversity of human sexuality. Many people believe that people are only supposed to be straight and they often use the ability of males and females to reproduce together as some sort of justification. Homophobia ignores the fact that diverse sexual urges and desires are real and can be for anybody!

Laws that regulate what a person does in their private lives completely disregard Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent proclamation that every person has the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Homophobic/heterosexist laws take away our individual liberties without any substantial or compelling legal basis.

My support for the LGBTQ community not only revolves around the issue of marriage equality but also teaching all young people proper comprehensive sexuality education. When we are silent about the issue of LGBTQ-inclusive education, many young people are left to make wrongful assumptions which can lead to STIs and other consequences (all of which are completely preventable.) Teaching youth about sexuality means not only introducing contraceptives, but also including information on getting tested for STIs, understanding diverse sexual orientations, gender identity and healthy relationships. Without this, young adults can find it difficult to bring up this topic with their partner and they may face more difficulty with the rest of society. An LGBTQ-inclusive sex education would not only provide useful information for all students but it would also help to educate straight students about diversity which would reduce stigma and discrimination in our culture.

Supporting issues like equal marriage and comprehensive sex ed are great ways to create an inclusive society where people will not be shamed for who they are. These are big approaches that are gaining new momentum towards acceptance from a majority of society.
President Obama recently announced that he supports equal marriage. There is no doubt that this type of action can become controversial but it is exactly the kind of remark that can create a more open society towards people outside the hetero-normative assumption. Things are certainly getting better for LGBTQ individuals across our country and I believe that with progressive, grassroots organizing and inclusive education an LGBTQ-friendly society can be realized.  

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The destiny of every nation, village and community lies in the hands of its people and is closely linked to their intellectual development. All the nations, villages and communities we admire, hail or despise today are only a fruit of its people’s concern or complacency to partake in their nation, village and community development efforts.

Education and especially that of the girl child is one of these development efforts from which people in rural and urban communities in Cameroon are being excluded. Consciously or unconsciously, an ever increasing number of young girls are, because of pregnancy, being refused their rights of belonging to a community, their right to education is continuously abused, and they are restrained from taking part in community developmental activities.

A Policy Based on Stigma and Rumor

In Cameroon, the dismissal of a girl that is pregnant is inscribed in the internal rules and regulations of almost all schools (primary and secondary). Based on these internal rules which have no legal backing, pregnant teenage girls are dismissed daily from these schools on grounds that, they will serve as bad examples to the other girls in the school, and soil the reputation of the educational establishment.

Waves of shock and anger ran through my family last month when Regine, an 18 year old extended family member, was dismissed from school on grounds that she was pregnant. Dismissed from school in Lower sixth (last but one year in secondary, Regina was no doubt luckier than the 57% of pupils in Cameroon who do not survive to the last grade of primary school; a majority of them being girls (UNICEF).But she is also undisputedly very unlucky in that, prospects of her completing secondary school have been greatly compromised by her purported pregnancy and above all her dismissal from school. Did you get it right? I said purported pregnancy because it has turned out that Regine is not pregnant. Yet she will not be readmitted into her school or any other in the village.

Regina’s case is just one in a thousand of such cases whereby, based on rumor and hearsay, the future of girls in Cameroon is sacrificed on the Alter of morality and Puritanism.

Dismissing Pregnant Girls Robs Them of Their Education Forever

According to statistics from the German Cooperation Agency (GTZ) in Cameroon, 20 -30% of young mothers had unplanned pregnancies with more than half of these girls becoming pregnant after their first sexual encounter, and 25% of them dropping out of school permanently. This, coupled with my observation that a majority of girls dismissed from schools on grounds of pregnancy, rarely ever go back to school, poses a problem of the effectiveness of sex education in the Cameroonian educational system and the raison-d’être of practices like these which makes the school not the safe haven it is meant to be but an environment where exclusion, intolerance, hypocrisy, and terror reigns supreme.

While I agree that teenage pregnancy has to be discouraged, I fiercely oppose the approach to achieving this goal which consists of dismissing pregnant teenagers and advocate for an approach that ‘Manages’ rather than ‘punishes’ teenage pregnancy.

Educating on SRHR: A Shared Responsibility

An efficient management of teenage pregnancy is only possible through the education and sensitization of young boys and girls on their Sex and Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR).In my opinion, this approach is even more inclusive and just when the responsibility of educating children on their Sex and Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) is shared by all the stakeholders in various communities.

There exist a host of cultural and religious taboos in most rural communities in Cameroon, makes sex education to a considerable proportion of people living in these communities a source of moral decay and a means of making children indulge into sex early. Viewed with a bad eye by most traditional and religious authorities, the restriction of lessons on sex education to basics is the order of the day in Cameroon.

A study carried out by the Germano-Cameroonian Health Program (SRJA), reveals that 62 % of girls who admitted having had an abortion had given birth before the age of 19, and 10% before the age of 16.A majority of these girls did not do any pre-natal medical consultations with 26% of them girls having contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the previous year. Frightening, no doubt, are the above facts and figures are, even more frightening is the number of girls who die while having an abortion in the towns and villages of Cameroon. How many of these poor outcomes could good sex education and contraceptive access have prevented?

Dismissal: Not a Solution; the Source of More Troubles

To reduce the horror caused by unsafe abortions in Cameroon, Sex and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) should be given the place it deserves in the school curricula. The way sex education is currently being done in schools across the country is very shallow with pupils and students limited on to the concepts around sex while they are not taught their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

In addition to the above, the exclusion of teenage mothers from society through dismissal from school and isolation is a problem rather than a solution. Rather than constantly telling pregnant teenagers that they are a disgrace to their family, their church, or community, they should instead be shown that they can a play a fundamental role in the development of their communities.

The impact of the stigmatization of teenage mothers and the dismissal of pregnant teenagers from schools thus goes beyond just negatively affecting their ability to exercise their right to education, but is having a huge impact on the sexual and reproductive health rights of girls in rural communities in Cameroon. Action that is inclusive is needed if development efforts of each and everyone are to be counted. Because in my opinion, the dismissal of pregnant teenagers rather than being a solution has been the source of many more troubles for communities in my country.

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Working with the Healthy Teens Campaign’s Broward County Youth Council (BCYC) was such an inspiring experience. I was so impressed and excited by the council members’ passion and dedication to have comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sex education in their schools in Broward County.

I have worked with volunteers and elected officials for more than 10 years, and seeing the Broward council members in action surprised and impressed me. Their passion and knowledge about the need for real sex education was better than some professionals.

The BCYC’s big project this year was a county wide survey of Broward County schools’ current sex education programs; as well as students’ current knowledge and what they would like to learn. There were many challenges and obstacles. Many schools did not want the council members collecting surveys at school. But the council members rose to the occasion and reached out to their peers, distributed surveys at their after school activities, and through social media outlets. They even created a video to encourage students to participate.

The past year has been a learning experience for not only the students but also me! I may even have gotten more out of the experience than the council. The biggest realization I am taking away is that if given the opportunity and the tools to meet their goals, the sky is the limit for our young activists!

While our work has only begun and there is still much to do; I can’t wait for the day all public schools in Broward County have comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education due to the hard work of the work Broward County Youth Council!

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I gave out the last condom today, meaning "Mission Condom Distribution" is complete. While some people sought me out to ask for condoms (as was the case for number 500), most of the condoms were given out at a school event called "One Big Sex Night" which featured a group sex therapy show and sex education. Although not every attendee agreed with what was said by the socio-comedian who hosted the event, almost all of them took interest its free condoms.


I had talked with my school’s University Program Board (who sponsored the event) and helped set up a table filled with free condoms as well as flyers for the Great American Condom Campaign and Trojan’s instruction sheets. It was great to see people’s interest and curiosity toward a table littered with condoms and spread the word about safe sex.

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Today is the last day of classes, and of course I’m happy to be done with classes (currently pretending there are no finals)  but I’m also thinking back to everything we’ve done this semester! This was my fourth semester as president of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter, a non-partisan student organization that aims supports religious freedoms, civil liberties, and strong public schools. Here’s a group picture from one of our meetings, aren’t we just the cutest activsts you ever saw? I know we are :)

I’ve summed up most of our events with a few highlights and pictures below, and I know that more than anything it’s been an incredible semester and I can’t wait to come back in the Fall!

Party with Darwin!
This was our first event of the semester, which consisted of two parts: 1) celebrating Darwin’s birthday by eating cake (of course!) and watching Kansas vs. Darwin, and 2) some good old fashioned craftivism where we turned plain old condoms in to condom roses for our Valentine’s Day condom distribution and petition drive! We had a great turnout, just over 40 students came to hang out and many signed up for our Valentine’s Day event too!

One of our birthday cakes for Dawin’s birthday! Not only was it adorable (thanks to our officers), but it was also delicious and vegan! 

Some student chapter members creating condom roses by wrapping red cellophane around a condom, securing with tape, and then adding a green pipecleaner! Instant romance!

Our super adorable outreach coordinator, Julian Villarreal, posing with a heart made of condom roses! What a beautiful sight!

Valentine’s Day Petition Drive and Condom Distribution
We know Valentine’s Day is the day of loooooove and often the day of looooooove making, so we wanted to make sure our peers had the condoms they needed to get it on (if they choose to!) and also used the opportunity to collect petition signatures in support of medically accurate, comprehensive sex education! We collected over 200 petitions and mobilized 18 students to volunteer with us! This is an annual tradition for us, and always tons of fun :)

Getting some signatures! We had tons of condoms that we crafted to look like roses (that’s whtat you see on the table) which students loved, we distributed every condom we brought with us AND collected over 200 petition signatures!

Students for Birth Control Rally with Cecile Richards
We were lucky to partner with University Democrats, Planned Parenthood of Austin, and Voices for Reproductive Justice to hold a rally in support of contaceptive access. Even better? Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and founder of the Texas Freedom Network, came as a guest speaker and I got to introduce her after my rally speech! I was absolutely terrified to speak in front of almost 200 people and tons of news cameras, but it was a great experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

The crowd beginning to gather outside of our tent. Even the rain couldn’t keep these young activitsts away! Planned Parenthood supplied the rally with cool activist signs from their Women Are Watching campaign, which many of us now have hanging up as art in our rooms!

Cecile Richards (YES!), our events coordinator Carisa Lopez, and myself after all of our rally speakers finished! Those are three very big smiles, we just couldn’t help ourselves after the heartwarming support from so many UT students!

Stand Up for Sex Ed: In-District Lobby Day
A small group of activists dedicated their Wednesday afternoon to talk to our representatives about why comprehensive sex education is important and how they can help to make comprehensive sex ed a reality for Texas students. First we gathered at the office where I facilitated a quick lobby day training, then headed to the Capitol. We met with State Senator Kirk Watson’s office and State Representative Elliott Naishtat’s office, who were both very supportive and gave us some great insight about who else we should target. 

It was a windy day at the Texas Capitol, which made posing for pictures a little difficult but just even more fun! Here a few of our young lobbyists pose in front of the Capitol after a successful meeting with Senator Watson’s office!

Forty Acres Fest 
Forty Acres Fest is a UT tradition where student organizations are invited to table in a carnival-like area with countless fun activities, live music, free food, games, and moonwalks! It was a great opportunity to reach out to new students we haven’t worked with before, and it was tons of fun! We set up our table with a cardboard cutout of Rick Perry, our current governor and the second largest support of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (George W. Bush is still #1 though!) so that students could write him a message and stick it to him, literally, with a sticky note. In addition to our fabulous Perry cutout, we also collected petition signatures and signed up new students!

Everyone loved the Rick Perry cutout!

A student writes his message to Rick Perry, clearly further evidence that expecting abstinence until marriage is not realistic!

Leadership Development Institute
Last, but certainly not least, we tied together the semester with a civic engagement training hosted by the Texas Freedom Network to get everyone ready for voter registration and elections in the fall! We’re now full trainined in voter registration drives, voter pledge cards, phone banking, block walking, State Board of Education issues, and already have an outline of events for next semester!

Getting settled in to our seats and ready to learn! How much coffee does it take to get 35 college students to pay attention early on a Sunday morning? LOTS. OF. COFFEE!

Some hilarious block walking role play! Good for a laugh and even a few teachable moments!

The semester is over, but we’ve only begun planning for next semester! Stay tuned for updates and have a safe summer :)

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Garrett Mize is the Youth Advocacy Coordinator at the Texas Freedom Network and heads up the Texas Student Leadership Council, a part of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative.

Summer is so close, you can almost feel it. At least you can certainly feel the heat of the summer sun here in Texas. Summer means one thing – another semester is coming to an end. It has been an amazing semester in Texas for our Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) youth leaders. Each of them lead a Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter on their campus and they have accomplished a great deal to support comprehensive sex education and equality.

In-District Lobby Days
The Texas Legislature meets every other year. Last year we brought 75 young people to the Capitol from across the state to lobby for comprehensive sex ed. But in an off-session year, what is a statewide youth movement to do? We coordinated a statewide, in-district lobby week for our student chapters. In each city, our students set up visits and met with the legislative staff of their state representatives and state senators to convey one message: support comprehensive sex ed! We’re proud to say that 27 young people participated in in-district lobbying and we know that this will help keep the issue of comprehensive sex ed legislators’ minds until next session.

School Health Advisory Councils
While many of our CAMI leaders serve on their School Health Advisory Councils (SHAC), which are voluntary groups that advise local school districts on what approach to take regarding sex ed, one CAMI leader in particular had immense success. Olac Fuentes joined the El Paso Independent School District SHAC and eventually began serving on the teen pregnancy prevention committee. On the committee, he helped to guide his fellow members to support comprehensive sex ed curriculum and abandon ineffective abstinence-only programs currently being used by the district. The committee took the recommendation to the full SHAC, and with Olac’s help, the recommendation was approved! We are currently waiting on the EPISD board of trustees to approve the recommendation but it is likely that they will. Way to go Olac! A great example of local advocacy at its finest.

University of Houston Let’s Talk About Sex Screening
Our Student Chapter at the University of Houston (UH), led by CAMI member James Lee, recently hosted a screening of Let’s Talk About Sex on their campus with a panel discussion afterward. The event was well attended and even received coverage by the school newspaper. The students’ favorite part of the film was when the attitudes of American youth were compared to the attitudes of youth in the Netherlands.

Leadership Development Institutes
This semester we hosted three Leadership Development Institute (LDI) trainings, at the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso. We had approximately 30 young people attended each training. They learned extensive information on grassroots organizing and civic engagement. In particular they learned tactics like voter registration, block-walking (canvassing) and phone-banking. Each of our student chapters will be using these skills through the next semester to register thousands of students across Texas to vote. In 2010, Texas ranked dead last – 50th – in voter turnout. And in most major urban areas, less than 1 out of 5 young people voted. The voice of young people needs to be heard in order to raise the issue of sex ed in political discourse. In particular, our student chapters will be educating students about the State Board of Education and their power to create curriculum standards and adopt textbooks for Texas’ nearly 4.8 million public school students. The state of sex ed is so bad in Texas that currently the word “condom” is not even mentioned a single time in any of the three major health textbooks. It’s time for that to change.

White House Young American Series

Recently some of our student chapter leaders participated in the White House Young American Series with Ronnie Cho, the President of the United States’ Liaison to Young Americans. This town hall event was meant to explore the issues that young people care about. UH CAMI leader James Lee was in attendance and brought attention to the need for comprehensive sex ed. TFN Student Chapter members from UT Austin also attended, and the TFN Student Chapter at UT San Antonio participated online.

Kiss for Equality
The fight for equal domestic partnerships for faculty and staff has been an ongoing campaign at the University of Houston for some time. Currently our Student Chapter President James Lee is leading an effort to keep this issue relevant to decisions makers on campus. James organized an awareness event with hundreds of young people on Valentine’s Day. His student organization made rally signs supporting equal domestic partner benefits and they hosted a “kiss in” – a flash mob of sorts where hundreds of diverse couples were encouraged to kiss at the same time to demonstrate their support. It received front-page attention from the campus newspaper and has helped keep the conversation about equality strong in Houston.

As you can see, it is has been a busy semester for us in Texas, but there is still plenty of work to be done!

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 In order to achieve sustainable development we need to take into consideration not only environmental and economical, but also social issues. Only through taking into account the intersectionality of these issues, we can talk about sustainable development.

Yes… alternative resources of power, sustainable agriculture, ecobusinesses are for sure important. But the issues of birth control, family planning, human population control and reproductive/sexual health/rights in general are of the same importance for sustainable development.

However, in this blog entry I want to touch the importance of sex education in sustainable development. Sex education helps to build such very important character trait as responsibility, which is important for sustainable development. If a person is responsible for his reproductive health, sexual life and sexual behavior, then it’s more likely that he will take responsible actions for environmental sustainability and they more likely avoid overexploitation and overconsumption.

It’s very important to introduce sex education along with sustainable development classes at schools in Kyrgyzstan. Now we do not have either state-recognized programs for both sex education and education in sustainable development.

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 Dear 15-year-old Emily,

First of all, kudos for you for getting the HPV vaccine (and kudos to your mom for being so awesome by supporting it)! It’s all about preventative care. About now you are finishing your freshman year of high school and, wow, has it been intense.

Your best friend will reveal to you that she had decided to have sex with her boyfriend who’s also a freshman. At this point the only sex education either of you have had was in middle school and that was just anatomy. You’ll have to wait until next year to learn about condoms, STIs, and to watch an awkward breast self-examination video. Your friend’s chosen method of birth control is called the “pull-out” method? (Um… FYI it’s completely unreliable at best.) She doesn’t know about anything else. I’m not gonna tell you if she gets pregnant or an STI.  You’ll just have to educate yourself the best ways you can figure out and do your best to explain to your friends that they need to too. Forget the whole thing about young people giving “bad” information. You’re probably the best source of education most of those girls will ever have.

You are a lucky girl; your parents are all about education. They will answer any questions you have (and your dad will make it uncomfortable, but he can’t help it). You are in the minority of teens whose parents are open about sexual health. You lucked out.

My advice to you would be to share that knowledge with your peers: those who are not able to speak with their parents about sex and those who are at risk for teen pregnancy, or STIs, and not to mention the emotions that go along with sex. You should start practicing now, because you’ll be a part of SWARM in college. There you’ll continue to educate your peers and convince them the “pull-out” method ain’t got nothing on condoms! But you’re gonna do even better than that… you’re going to change things. You’re going to be one of thousands of sparks to ignite a change where you live. You’re going to help make sure that no 9th grader ever uses the “pull-out” method without knowing that she should be using a condom.

Keep your head high. There’s a lot more going on than sex, though that seems to be what everyone’s doing and talking about. Your history test, for instance, next week is going to get you grounded unless you actually sit down and read the chapter!

Oh, one last thing—You’re awesome in every way.

With love, 21-year-old Emily


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In a casual discussion with some of my girlfriends, we began talking about our sex lives and attitudes. Though we all were of the same age group, two of my friends would not contribute to the discussion with something more than a giggle or a smile to compliment what some other person is saying. When this attitude of theirs was taken note of, some of us demanded to know why they were so dormant and would not say a word to ad to the discussion. It was then that one of them disclosed that she didn’t think sex was an issue to be discussed publicly and as a result of that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Then I began thinking of if this should really happen nowadays. Taking into consideration the fact that so many young people get involved in sexual activities for several reasons such as financial and to some extent peer pressure, not mentioning that about 70% of commercial sex workers are made up of young people, questions could not stop popping into my head. This being the case if abstinence from sexual activities is so difficult for young people, then the remedy should be sex education. As a matter of importance, sex education should be highly encouraged and should not only be limited to the responsibilities of a teacher or teachers but should also stretch to the responsibilities of parents, health officials, religious personalities, peers and everyone. People should feel more comfortable talking about sexual issues to help young people learn more and be aware of the positive and negative consequences they will, they are getting involved with when and if they decide to. Young people should also feel comfortable talking about these issues themselves to help each other by getting information which they maybe did not previously know about.

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Last week, a student of mine in Kindergarten in the Elementary school I work for showed his “private area” to another male student, while singing, “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. I asked him where he learned to do that and he simply said he learned it from television.

Two weeks ago, two girls in 2nd grade were discussing the difference between animals who lay eggs and animals who do not. The girls stated that guys release sperm in the mom and they get pregnant and have the baby 9 months later with a belly button, whereas animals that lay eggs do not.

Though this is somewhat accurate, these two girls were well aware of the biological steps to reproduction, a discussion that is awkwardly saved for them in junior high school. When I asked where they learned this information, which I assumed would be from their parents, I was quickly caught off guard when they said they saw it on Family Guy. An cartoon television series that is known for it’s offensive, adult humor that is definitely not suitable for children.

It is clear that these two examples are definitely eyebrow raisers for concerned parents. Though I wish I could teach them about comprehensive sex education, it is not my place to. That is saved for the awkward pubescent stage in junior high, in which girls and boys are already exploring their bodies and sexual drives. These situations make me ponder…

Is elementary school too early to discuss comprehensive sex education?

From my personal experience of working with school-age youth, many children, ages 5-11, are well aware of the emotional and physical concepts of being in a relationship and “liking” someone. Many of the youth ask me if I like my co-worker or who my boyfriend is and often tease me about kissing someone of holding someone’s hands. Many boys and girls go around looking to see who likes them and have a steady boyfriend/girlfriend (sometimes more than one!) for a few days. Oftentimes, they break up and move on to the next one, but nonetheless know the basic steps of being in a relationship, despite their maturity level.

As I observe these behaviors, my mind races with curiosity of how things were in the past. Yes, these things happened in elementary school when I was a child. Seeing my peers “date” someone, kiss, and break-up. While many adults assume that children are still maintaining their innocent-like behavior, I find it quickly dissolving away as time goes on. Children retain information about sex and sexuality more than ever in songs, t.v, the internet, and seeing their parent’s behavior.

In my personal opinion, as children learn from the media and what they hear at home about sex, relationships, and sexuality, the same amount of information needs to be taught to them about sex, relationships, and sexuality.

When I say information, I do mean sex education that is age appropriate and encourages age appropriate dialogue.

I remember being 8 years old and my mother teaching me about the female reproductive system. When I asked her where babies came from, she kept it completely honest and did not hold anything back. She started from the beginning, telling me about puberty and sexual desires to having sex, getting pregnant, and having a baby. She then discussed the social aspects of being in a relationship, such as liking someone, the emotions associated with it, going steady, communication, and even heartbreak. My mother put everything into perspective for me that was easy to understand at my age. I completely respected her for letting me know as soon as possible. If I were thrown into a situation without her teaching me beforehand, I definitely would have made some risky decisions.

Whenever I speak to parents, I encourage them to talk to their children early about sex and relationships. Young children know more than everyone assumes and though they may not ask questions, they see it on a daily basis in advertisements, television, music, and the internet. Kids often put what they see to use and as a youth worker, I have plenty of examples to show for it.

I also do not want to discourage age appropriate sex education before junior high school. Some young girls are already going through their puberty stages before they transition to middle school, while young males are already beginning to question the their phases and are anticipating their own change. Perhaps this idea might be too radical for some, but I do believe that young children will find it more beneficial to be informed about their own bodies sooner rather than later.

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Are you a young person (14-24 years old) who is…

  • Passionate about fighting for young people’s rights to sexual health information and services?
  • Interested in connecting with youth leaders from across the country?
  • Dedicated to developing skills to make a difference in your community?

Consider applying for one of Advocates for Youth’s programs! See all of the available opportunities below.

If selected, you will have opportunities to: develop new organizing and leadership skills; become informed on sexual and reproductive health issues; connect with passionate young people from across the country; and have a lasting impact on your communities. You will also join more than 100 youth activists in Washington, DC for an intense four-day activist training institute free of charge!

Advocates’ youth activists have done amazing work this year. You can join them in:

  • Increasing HIV testing on your campus
  • Providing confidential support and resources to young people who are worried about coming out
  • Working with college administrators to make condom distribution more widely available on your campus
  • Mobilizing your peers around international family planning issues
  • Working to destigmatize abortion and ensure youth access to affordable birth control

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out the program descriptions below and apply today! Application deadlines are coming up fast.

Wait — I’m not a young person…

If you are a parent, teacher, or advocate who knows young people who are passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights, please encourage them to apply today.


Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

Campus Organizing Team

Advocates for Youth works with campus organizations to provide them with skills, information, and materials to conduct advocacy campaigns on their campuses. Each year, selected campus organizations are chosen to receive intensive assistance, including funding, advocacy and media training, materials for dissemination and on-going assistance to help educate, activate, and empower students on issues such as condom availability, LGBT rights, comprehensive sex education, abortion access, and HIV prevention/treatment among others!

Click here to complete the Campus Organizing Team application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

Young Women of Color Leadership Council (YWOCLC)

The Young Women of Color Leadership Council is composed of young leaders and activists who come together to promote a message of prevention and empowerment through a reproductive justice lens. All of the Council’s work is a collaboration of diversity and power, in the hopes of affecting a million more young women of color. The goals of the Council are to educate, include, and empower.

Click here to complete the Young Women of Color Leadership Council application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

YouthResource Peer Educators

YouthResource, a website by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) young people, explores issues of concern to GLBTQ youth. The Online Peer Educators provide affirmation and support to their peers, answer questions posed by visitors, and assist users to find the local resources they need. Peer Educators also write blogs, articles, and issue briefs for the YouthResource website, advocate for GLBTQ rights, and present at conferences on GLBTQ issues.

Click here to complete the YouthResource Peer Educator application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative (CAMI): State Activists

Advocates for Youth works with state youth activists in 8 target states (AL, CA, CO, FL, OH, NC, SC, TX) on youth leadership councils, which advocate for comprehensive sex education and other sexual health and rights issues in their communities. Their goal is to mobilize people in their states to fight for honest, responsible sex education and ensure that young people are listened to and have a voice within the debate. Click here to find out more about our state partners. Applications will be available shortly.

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The Broward County Legislative Briefing was a lively conversation between Planned Parenthood’s CEO Lillian Tamayo, Supporters, the Broward County Youth Council, and some of our champions in the Legislature Representative Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, Representative Hazel Rogers and Senator Nan Rich. They each spoke of 2012 legislative session and the importance of defeating all the anti-choice bills introduced each commented on the fact it was done through all groups joining together and our supporters passion.

The Broward Youth Council members, who are a group of 10 youth leaders that advocate for comprehensive sex education in Broward county schools, were able to give the elected officials an overview of their work in Broward County. Youth Council members enjoyed speaking to legislators on a face to face basis. Most importanly, the elected officials enjoyed having young, passionate voices in the room asking questions and providing comments. You can see some the youth council members in the photo above with elected officials. (From the left you see Tevin Dean, Representative Clarke-Reed, Jenny Dorval, Senator Rich, Flavia Franco, April Copeland, and Representative Rogers).

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On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a re-call election set for this summer, signed a bill passed down party lines by Republicans to repeal the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Yes- he decided to make it harder for women being paid an unequal amount to press charges against their employers. Apparently he and the Republicans in the state legislature believe that women don’t deserve to be paid as much as men. The repeal, supported by several major business associations, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Restaurant association, reverses an employee’s ability to “plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state court system,” and instead forces them to go before a federal court.

Reading about this, I asked myself: “Don’t we have federal legislation protecting an employee’s right to equal pay? How does this law comply with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?” What I learned was that the Ledbetter Act deals with revising the statute of limitations on when an employee can sue for unequal pay; it doesn’t deal with the process of how they do that. What it does say is that you can sue for unequal pay within 180 days of your most recent paycheck, extending the previous limitation of 180 days from your first discriminatory paycheck.

Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin state senator and “major driver of the repeal,” believes that “a huge number of the discrimination claims are baseless,” even though the 2009 law offered such confident protection to employees that zero lawsuits were filed against employers during the two years the law was in effect. Faced with the realities of the wage gap, though- which in Wisconsin is 78:100- Grothman explains the discrepancy as a difference in priorities and a different sense of urgency between men and women; not as discrimination.

During a recent interview, he referred to work done by Ann Coulter, which he claimed showed that the wage gap only effects married women. Even knowing this isn’t true, it’s problematic because it supports the assumption that married women, who are presumed to have children, obviously have better things to worry about than finances. This theory, however, was debunked by a 2007 study by the American Association of University Women.

“After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained,” it said. After 10 years in the workforce, there’s an unexplained 12 percent gap.

When asked for his response to such studies, Grothman dismissed the American Association of University Women as “a pretty liberal group,” and claimed that they overlooked things like “goals in life,” saying, “You could argue that money is more important for men.”

Saying that money is more important for men is like saying that paying the rent, buying food, and covering medical bills isn’t as important to women. It also plays to the stereotype that women want or need men who can fully support them financially, freeing them to do the un-paid “women’s work” like laundry, dishes, and childcare that they really wish they could do even more of.

Sarah Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, says that the new law is a “women’s health issue.”

"The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women’s health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access."

She makes an apt point, especially considering the long list of recent legislative attacks on Wisconsin women. This includes the defunding of Planned Parenthood, mandatory counseling sessions for those seeking an abortion, a ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion, abstinence-only programs that cannot include information on contraceptives, and a personhood amendment, each proposed or passed within the last year.

Kathleen Falk, a former Dane County executive and one of two Democratic frontrunners in the Governor’s re-call election, says that as a working mother, she understands the importance of economic stability for women.

"As a woman and as a mother who worked full-time while raising my son, I know first-hand how important pay equity and health care are to women across Wisconsin,"

According to her website, Ms. Falk “has been recognized for her three decades of public service and has received dozens of awards and recognitions” from various groups such as women’s organizations, LGBT and equality advocates, and domestic violence support groups. Her statement reminded me of another Wisconsin news story I heard about a month ago. It features our sexist friend, Glenn Grothman, co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Donald Pridemore that would associate single parenthood with child abuse.

The bill says a child being raised by a single mother could be considered living in an abusive situation…

It would mandate the state Child Abuse Prevention Board conduct public awareness campaigns emphasizing that single parenthood is a leading cause of child abuse.

While being interviewed about the validity of the bill, Grothman spoke of his own research (without citing sources) that claimed an outrageous connection to sexual abuse.

"A child is 20 times more likely to be sexually abused if they are raised by say, a mother and a boyfriend, than their mother and father," Grothman said

He also voiced a conspiracy theory last summer that single motherhood was all part of the liberal agenda.

The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government,”

That makes no damn sense. And what a slap in the face to the single mothers of Wisconsin, who incidentally, make up one-third of parents raising children in the state. This Republican war on women is despicable. In Wisconsin, women are at a disadvantage to fight workplace discrimination, to get comprehensive sex education, to secure access to prescription medication and medical procedures, and to be given a level of respect as people and as parents, whether married or single. When will it end??

What makes it worse is that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that what they’re doing is abusive. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, recently said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” that the war on women was as fictional as claiming we were having a “war on caterpillars.” Nice to know he’s taking this seriously.

In contrast, the Obama re-election campaign has spoken out strongly against these attacks. Responding to Chairman Priebus’ caterpillar comment, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager said that this was yet another example of why women can’t trust Republicans to protect their rights.

“Reince Priebus’ comparison of Republican attempts to limit women’s access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a ‘war on caterpillars’ shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health. … Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

And, in response to the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a campaign spokesperson called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has supported Governor Scott Walker, to tell the women of Wisconsin whether he agrees with the repeal.

"As he campaigned across Wisconsin, Mitt Romney repeatedly praised Governor Scott Walker’s leadership, calling him a ‘hero’ and ‘a man of courage,’" she said. "But with his signing yesterday of a bill make it harder for women to enforce in court their right to equal pay, Walker showed how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine not only women’s health care, but also their economic security. Does Romney think women should have ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers? Or does he stand with Governor Walker against this?"

The people of Wisconsin stood up at this time last year to fight against the Republican effort to restrict the rights of unionized workers, and in doing so they inspired the entire country. Considering the extreme attacks they are now pushing through against women, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the people of Wisconsin put up another great fight.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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While campaigning in Wisconsin for the upcoming primary, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was making a public appearance at a bowling alley to spend time among voters. One man who was joining in the game, described only as “young,” apparently picked up a pink bowling ball, only to be reprimanded by Santorum, who said, “You’re not gonna use that pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.”

There are so many directions I could go with my criticism of this. The first think that comes to mind, given Santorum’s “man-on-dog” history, is that he didn’t want anyone seeing video of their game to assume that he bowls in the vicinity of anyone that anyone could assume might be gay. The extension of this thought, though, is why a pink bowling ball might lead someone to think that the person using it is gay.

In current fashion, though not historically, pink is associated with a concept of femininity. The bowling ball assumption that the man is gay is based on the idea that “real men” only use objects painted in “masculine colors.” This means that if a man uses a pink bowling ball, he must not be a “real man”- which, to someone who would make this connection, is the same thing as assuming he’s gay.

But, again, why would a pink bowling ball lead someone to believe that? Basically- misogyny. If association with an object painted a “girly” color means that you are less of a person, that leads me to conclude that Rick Santorum believes that women are lesser people than men. That’s misogyny.

Santorum clearly believes that he as one man knows better than 150 million women who they should marry, if and when they have children, how many children they should have, if they should watch pornography, if they should be valued less than a fertilized egg, if they are free to practice a non-Christian religion, if they and their partner would make good adoptive parents, if they should be taught scientifically and medically accurate information in science and sex education, or if it’s just entertainment when women speaking publicly about reproductive health concerns are called sluts and prostitutes.

Rick Santorum told that young man in Wisconsin not to use a pink bowling ball because he couldn’t stand to be caught in the same room with a man who thought that touching something “feminine” did not diminish him as a person. It’s sick. That is absolutely unacceptable behavior from someone who wants to be President. If you don’t respect the majority of the people in this country, why do you even want to be President of this country? Is it because you think you can change us? Do you think we need to be saved? This is not leadership, Rick Santorum. This is misogyny and homophobia. These antiquated notions are not helping us move forward. They are holding us back.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Public school sex education is a huge deal. I don’t think most of the parents or teachers realize how huge of a deal it is. They might perk up and pay attention, but then again, maybe not. May be if they knew exactly what curriculum in what ways is being taught? Then they might would ask it to be more of a comprehensive and an age appropriate one.
I still remember my past clinging. When I use to be in my school days, all of us mates use to be timid when the teacher entered the class to give us lecture on “sex education”. The term itself was enough for us to behave peculiarly. Though the topic is intriguing still the culture that we follow makes it nebulous. And the most interesting fact is that the teacher himself would hesitate in front of us. As a result the chapter would be left untaught or half taught. Yes, that’s exactly what happens and I am sure every one of us might have same or a different story. So on with my question since this issue is fundamental why is it still neglected? It’s something that’s debatable and owes an answer. This issue might also turn into a blame game- “one blaming upon other”. But I think I have my own counter to this. I was wondering what people’s views are on the age children should start sex education in school. I personally don’t think my age group got any sex education at the appropriate age and the government seems to be putting off the idea by not revising the curriculum according to the altering requirements of the children. In my opinion, sex education should start as soon as puberty starts. Most important hormonal changes in our sexual lives start at puberty. Puberty starts somewhere between 8 and 13 for girls and 9 and 14 for boys. And prominently having being born in a Nepalese society it’s hard for us to approach to our parents in case of any queries that pops in to our mind regarding sexuality. That results psychological tribulations, cerebral tensions and depression. The earlier the better and the more comprehensive even more better. These days most teens lack sex education because parents feel shy to talk about sex and teachers think it is inappropriate to start sex education at a younger age. These days children as young as 12 are having sex because they think sex are fun! Not knowing the consequences. The curriculums that are taught here start as early as 4th grade teaching children about HIV. I am stunned and appalled. I have a 5th grader brother and I don’t think that children this young need to be taught about sex as explicitly as these curriculum teach them, and I certainly don’t think they have a need for HIV info either. Tell them about puberty and teach them from a scientific and medical standpoint about the changes that will occur in their bodies, but HIV . . .? I also find it very strange that in these curriculums the STD and HIV lessons are at the bottom. After they have talked to the kids about “touching,” “sexual exploitation,” “gender identification” and “sexual health and hygiene” then they will tell them, well you could get a disease. This is beyond ridiculous. I am so shocked by these curriculums, that I am just doing a little critique of them here.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a program that starts in kindergarten and continues through high school. It brings up age appropriate sexuality topics and covers the broad spectrum of sex education, including safe sex, STDs, contraceptives, masturbation, body image, and more. If this is the type of sex education your teen is receiving at school there may be times that you need to buffer some of the information, as it may have come sooner than your teenager needed it. Typically, most schools fall in the middle of the two types of programs. Either way, you will need to know what your teenager is being – or is not being – taught about sex and their sexuality. Then you can be prepared for their questions with the correct answers, and not leave it to their friends or the media to educate them and importantly not leaving them with psychological traumas.
Kriti Giri
Youth Activist Leadership Council

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     “Drinking toilet water can prevent pregnancy.” When I was reading an article named “100 weird daily life anecdotes” shared by my friends on the Chinese version of Facebook—Renren, this sentence, immediately caught my attention. “Gosh!” Said in my mind, I continued my reading of these 100 weird, “must-known” knowledge points. Then, sentences such as “having sex during menses will not lead to pregnant” all come up. So confused by whether people will believe these, I messaged my friends. “Well,” she replied quickly, “I don’t know, it sounds weird but if it works, then it is worth trying.”
     Chinese sex education was a problem and is still a problem even though some schools have already tried to improve it. When I was in middle school, I remembered to have a class, just one class, that we were told why girls had to suffer menses with all boys were forced to wait outside the classroom. Then when I entered my senior high, all my sex-ed was finished in my biology class where we learned the differences of male and female and the birth of a child. However, we never got the chance to learn things such as how to be in relationships, how to respect gender differences, and safe sex. So I always believed that first, be in a relation was bad because it was time consuming and would never end up good; second, sex was bad, and it was a thing I should never engage—unless I wanted to have a baby. However, the more forbid we got, the more curious we became. In my high school years, girls had to hide their sanitarian napkins in case guys teased them. Also, guys watched adult videos since they were so curious about sex.
     So, the outcome is quite foreseeable. Yesterday, I researched for the Chinese youth reproductive health survey, I got a report that produced by UN and the Chinese government in 2009. So I did some translation: (this is a survey conducted in 2009 in China, targeted on 164000000 young people aged 15-24)
_ Among them, 60% are comfort with having sex before marriage.
_ 22.4% have had sex before.
_ Among the 22.4% young people, more than half of them didn’t use any contraception method during their first time sex.
_ Among female youth who had sex before marriage, 91% of them were forced to conduct abortion.
_ And for the reproductive health service part, about 60% consulting services needs and 50% treatment needs are unmet.
_ Only 4.4% youth have correct understanding about reproductive health and only 14.4% youth have the correct knowledge about HIV prevention.
     So comprehensive sex-ed, we need it!