The Earlier, The Better

Last week I attended a Mentorship training hosted by KMET and Population Council. It was very rewarding and it has to be one of the most informative and interesting events I’ve witnessed during my time here. At this weeklong training, women between the ages of 20-35 were taught different topics ranging from health, finance, education, etc and how to implement what they have learned to create safe spaces and mobilize and mentor young girls in their neighborhoods. One of my favorite activities of the event had the women place different statements, phrases, and ideas at the age they believe it was appropriate for girls to know such information. The ages started from 8 to 18, and the statements had topics that dealt with a lot of issues such as sex, pregnancy, finance, HIV/AIDS, etc. After everyone taped their statements at the different ages, Mercy, one of the facilitators pointed out something that rang true not just for the girls participating in the training. An overwhelming majority of the statements were placed at the later ages, 18 and 16 years. While there were smaller number of sentences taped at 10 and even fewer at 8 years.

“Do you all think that it is only appropriate for a girl to know about sex at 16 or 18 years of age?” Mercy asked.

Of course, the participants began to realize how flawed their thinking were when she pointed out the increasing number of teens engaging in sex at an early age and the consequences of such actions.

“It isn’t your fault”, she continued. “This is what our society teaches us. That it is inappropriate to educate girls about such issues until a later age. And then they bear the majority of the blame when issues such as teen pregnancy arises.”

During that session, Mercy stressed the importance of informing and educating the young girls that these mentors will be working with about these issues regardless of their age.

Knowledge is power, and those with the power are those that have the knowledge and understanding. By preventing young girls from vital information that will enable them to be in control of their own lives and body, they are rendered powerless and vulnerable. They are at the mercy of those around them, and what’s even worse, they are often the ones to suffer the dire consequences of actions they could not control.

We need to educate and empower the young girls in order to give them power and control over their lives and decisions. And as Mercy suggested, “the earlier, the better.”

Rashida Aluko-Roberts