“I learned a lot from The World Starts With Me but most importantly I learned about puberty and body changes,” says Hayat, a 15-year-old girl from Jimma in Ethiopia. “I now understand my body better and feel more relaxed and confident.” She is one of twenty young people in West Ethiopia we asked to explain what the programme The World Starts With Me means to them. How has comprehensive sexuality education changed their lives?
In 2013 Rutgers WPF implemented this comprehensive sex education programme in Ethiopia with Educaids and local partner organisation DEC. Supported by two art teachers, the students (eight girls and twelve boys from 15 to 17 years old) visualised their experiences using linocuts. Each picture shows how sex education helped them to become confident and articulate young men and women. Now, their experiences have been collected in a booklet.
The changes these young people describe do not only address the traditional sexual risk-related topics like the prevention of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and sexual abuse. They also include other life skills such as gaining confidence and trust, gender equality, empowerment through sexual rights and being able to dream about one’s future.
Better school performance
The students had immense fun capturing their own personal beliefs and feelings. Their pictures clearly show how The World Starts With Me helped them gain self-esteem and form healthy and loving relationships. In some cases it even contributed to better performance at school. What these young Ethiopians have to say demonstrates the importance of access to comprehensive sexuality education for gender equality, empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
“When I learned about gender and equality, I figured I could change something myself,” explains Haile, a 15-year-old boy. “I went home, talked about it with my family and offered to share chores with my sister. Now, we even study together.”
Rutgers WPF is determined to understand the impact WSWM has on its students. The art week was an excellent opportunity for this, enabling young people both to develop key skills and to express themselves. Using qualitative, interactive methods like focus groups, interviews and art, participants learnt to think critically, visualise and share their thoughts using drawing, lino and paper cuts. These activities were mixed with fun energizers to support the gaining of trust and confidence.