“Pinch the tip of the condom and gently roll it down!” exclaimed the school nurse as she demonstrated how to put on a condom with a banana to my seventh grade co-ed health class. She spoke with so much enthusiasm that I thought perhaps she had momentarily transformed into a six-year old at her own birthday party. The entire classroom was silent with embarrassment — consisting of being uncomfortable with the topic at hand and the performance on display. Watching Mrs. Robinson’s demonstration was like a train wreck, something horrific that compelled you to keep watching, unable to turn away. The vision of the Juliet Louis Dreyfus look-alike with her banana is forever imprinted in my brain, for better or worse.
On a recent visit to Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana‘s (PPAG) Youth Center, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience learning about the birds and the bees. I found myself wishing my sex education experience would have been closer to the youth friendly services offered by the Youth Center rather than the banana experience I received.
PPAG’s Youth Center offers an impressive amount of services to local
youth. Not only does it focus on the needs of youth, it is also
organized and driven by youth. Local youth make up an advisory board
for the Center and oversee the implementation of activities. Peer to
Peer educators operate a hotline and the Youth Center itself is staffed
by volunteer youth facilitators that receive training through a peer to
peer exchange of information and services.
The Youth Center is a place to go for fun activities and socializing;
it is an after-school hangout with activities such as table tennis and
other games. Located at the Center are a computer room, an audio
visual center, a library, and a clinic. The audio visual center
offers a snack bar and televisions that are used to view videos and
spark discussion forums that have weekly topics. In the forums
participants are asked how they have understood the video and what they
think about the topics. The computer room has multiple computers with
internet access for use and free internet access is available for those
looking to conduct research about sexual and reproductive health (often
used when doing a scavenger hunt type of activity sponsored by the
Center). Upstairs there is a library with fiction and nonfiction books
to check out, including some about sexual and reproductive health. The
on-site clinic is also staffed with a youth facilitator. Among the
ongoing activities organized by the Center are drumming and singing
While the Youth Center faces challenges such as a current lack of a
nurse to staff the clinic, I’d have to say the experience and services
offered by the Youth Center are something I’d have much preferred to
the awkwardness of the sex education that I received. I commend PPAG
for its efforts to effectively engage youth in making informed and
responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.