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 Advocates’ youth activists from Jamaica, Ethiopia, and Nigeria have been using video to document what young people think are some of the main sexual and reproductive health issues and challenges facing them and their peers.    This blogger attended a special screening.  The video is up now – check it out here!

A hanger? A hanger?! Why would anyone in their right mind use a coat hanger to abort a fetus out of a young girl? That was my question when I watched the documentary presented by the International Youth Speak Out project at the 2009 Urban Retreat. Why haven’t these practices been eliminated? Why do girls and women feel that they need to find ways to abort that can harm their lives? She is not just one of the million girls who have gone to these extreme means. There are many young girls who do not have access to reproductive and sexual health education that can enable them to make healthy and safe decisions.

As I listened to the many other stories presented in the documentary, I was appalled that young people in Nigeria, Jamaica and Ethiopia do not have access to reproductive and sexual health education. I was very surprised to hear that in Jamaica, many young people feel that they are not at risk for sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDs. Young people emphasized that the environment and cultural background of individuals dramatically impact their decisions. Reproductive and sexual health is a taboo topic that is seen as negative in the eyes of many people. How can we change these negative views to positive?
The documentary piece in Ethiopia described that sexual and reproductive health topics cannot and should not be talked about with families. Moreover, young people who are currently students described that at the school meetings, they are told to not have sex. The students are not provided accurate sexual and reproductive health information. The young girls explained that they would not take contraceptives because they feared that they would gain weight and that they would not be able to get pregnant after using the medication. These two fears are misconceptions that have been created to scare individuals from having sexual intercourse. Why do schools not provide young people with accurate information, so they can protect themselves? When the statistics clearly show that young people are engaging in sexual intercourse, why not provide them with accurate information?

Furthermore, a medical doctor explained that information about sexual health is not accessible and distributed in colleges and universities. I was taken aback when I heard that information is not well distributed at colleges and universities, knowing that I am a university student. I would be lost without the abundant information offered here at my campus about sexual and reproductive health.

Though most of the young people interviewed emphasized that sexual and reproductive health is not provided, one girl in the school stood out. She said “I WILL USE A CONDOM” and if my boyfriend does not want to use it, “I WILL MAKE SURE TO BE ON BIRTH CONTROL.” These words from this girl showed that there is hope, hope that someday girls around the world will stand and speak up for their rights. Change starts with one voice and that voice is her.

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