In Issue 31, we met Rosette who wanted to know more about sexual and reproductive health when she reached puberty. In this issue, we will talk with Rose Rwabuhihi, Chief Gender Monitor, who works to promote gender equality for sustainable development in Rwanda. We discussed the questions she had when she was young, the importance of knowing the facts, and what Ni Nyampingas can do to access information on sexual and reproductive health.

NN: When you were young, were you curious about sexual and reproductive health?

Rose: [Laughing] Such curiosity has always existed. Long ago, we used to ask ourselves where babies come from! They would tell us that they come from the cabbage patch or the navel. We also wondered what people do when they get married.

NN: The same curiosity exists among young people today. Where did you get information about sexual and reproductive health when you were going through puberty?

Rose: Back then, adults didn’t feel comfortable discussing sexual and reproductive health with their children, and so we would get information from textbooks. However, sometimes we didn’t understand what we read, and we would end up having more questions. We asked our friends about it, and they would tell us what they knew, which was often wrong. As we grew up, we eventually came to understand more. For example, you would learn what menstruation is after getting your period, learn about sex after getting married and figure out where a baby comes from after giving birth.


NN: Did you face any challenges because you didn’t have enough information?

Rose: We lived an unsettled life because we never knew what would happen to us. For example, sometimes before getting your period, you wondered whether it was actually menstruation or something else. You might also wonder when your period would end and why your peers’ bodies were changing while yours wasn’t.

NN: Although it happens less often nowadays, there are some girls who get their periods before knowing what it is. What do you think prevents them from getting the right information?

Rose: The main obstacle preventing girls from getting information from trustworthy sources is our historical culture. Information about sexual and reproductive health is kept a secret as if it’s taboo. It is important that we parents seek such information and share it with our children.

NN: Do girls have the right to ask for information about sex?

Rose: They have all the right to ask. Girls need to know that there are consequences of having unprotected sex such as unexpected pregnancies, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and facing emotional pain, especially if they have sex with someone who acts irresponsibly.

NN: Are boys well informed about sex compared to girls?

Rose: Both boys and girls struggle with getting information about sexual and reproductive health. Boys tend to learn from their peers or movies, but face fewer consequences than girls.

NN: Often boys behave like they know more than girls and use that to pressure girls into having sex. It is really important that girls overcome their fears and ask for the right information to avoid falling for those lies. What can be done so that girls become well informed?

Rose: I encourage girls to be bold and simply ask. There is a girl’s room at school and the teacher responsible for providing sanitary products should also teach about sexual and reproductive health. And girls, seek information from the right source. I also call on parents to talk with our children. It won’t arouse more curiosity than they already have. Let’s create a safe space for young people to talk freely.is important that we parents seek such information and share it with our children.

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