In Rwanda, some girls are afraid to ask about sexual and reproductive health because when they do, people accuse them of being immoral or believe they want to have sex. This stops them from asking such questions, yet they have every right to know. Josiane is a young woman who was able to overcome this obstacle with the help of her peers.
Rwandan society sometimes disapproves when girls express curiosity about sex, even though it’s an important part of life. As we sit in the garden of the Kamonyi health centre with Josiane and her two friends, they share what Josiane’s life was like before and after she gained the confidence to ask about sex.
Nineteen-year-old Josiane told us that she has learned lots of useful information about sex from her local health centre: “I now know the important facts and no one can deceive me. I’m confident because I’ve overcome my fears, and I know I can achieve any goal I set. I also feel comfortable explaining sex to other people.” As we gain the confidence to ask questions and learn about sex, our friends, parents and others in our lives can help us on the journey. For Josiane, her friends Grace and Alia helped her to overcome her fears and convinced her it’s important to ask questions about sexual and reproductive health and encouraged her to visit the health centre to find the answers she seeks.
“It all started when I visited my boyfriend. I felt changes in my body and the urge to have sex with him, so I rushed home immediately.” When she arrived home, Josiane asked her friends about what she was feeling, but they couldn’t explain and instead had lots of their own questions. They all agreed to go to their local health centre to find answers.
Being scared to talk about sex might be because you don’t want to be judged or get punished by your parents if they find out you’re asking questions. This is exactly what Josiane felt. Even when she went to the health centre, she was too afraid to ask her questions.
On her way home, Josiane asked her friends how they found the confidence to ask their questions. “I told her we felt comfortable because they are trained nurses who explain things well and don’t judge. We trusted them,” said Grace. Arriving home, Josiane reflected on what Grace said and a few days later felt confident enough to go back to the health centre. She knew it was her right to ask for the information she wanted but still wasn’t sure about how to strike up the conversation if she went alone.
“When I decided to go, I asked Grace if she could come with me. She told me not to worry and that there would be a nurse who will lead the conversation. When I arrived, the nurse welcomed me and was very friendly. She made me feel comfortable, and I was able to ask my questions.” Josiane returned home happy and confident that if she has any other questions, she can go back to the health centre and ask one of the friendly nurses.
Grace, Alia and Josiane encourage fellow Ni Nyampingas to feel confident when asking about sex, not to worry about what people might say and focus on what they want to achieve because it’s their right. Stick to your goals, avoid anyone trying to mislead you, and always look for accurate information from reliable sources.