08 SES 02, Challenges of Sexuality Education: Research Highlights from Portugal
In rural northern Mozambique, local stakeholders globally understand female initiation rites, which include no genital cutting, as schools of what constitute adult behaviour where the central agenda is to teach girls about sexuality and sexual and reproductive health issues and how to behave regarding the cultural values of their particular ethnic group namely regarding death and burial, the history of their community and to inculcate respect towards ancestors, elders, authorities and others. Mozambican initiation rite counsellors and traditional practitioners, operate within informal but sustainable local structures that can have significant influence on adolescent behaviour (1). In spite of sexuality education in the school community being encouraged by the National Curriculum of Sciences Teaching (2) it is not usually put into practice and, initiation rites represent the most appropriate socio-cultural context for dealing with the sexuality of the majority of female adolescents. Mozambican female adolescents are the most vulnerable group to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy since in Mozambique, local understandings of sexuality are focused on fecundity and reproduction (3) and often include the practice of “dry sex”, which means limiting humidity in the vagina (4), both contradicting the use of condoms. Moreover in Mozambique, young girls experience sexual violence as a result of male-dominated social norms that expose girls to high rates of intergenerational sexual activity, sometimes related to material concerns and at other times, to forced sexual activity (rape and sexual assaults) which are highly underreported due to the gendered dynamics of sexual violence. As a consequence, unwanted pregnancy is one of the biggest problems for female adolescents, who are often younger than 14 when giving birth, are afraid to get pregnant, have insufficient information about contraception and HIV/AIDS prevention and usually are not empowered to demand the use of a condom or to assume the responsibility of raising a child and as a result, pass this obligation on to their mothers and grandmothers (5). As hospitals in rural areas do not perform abortions, young women might risk traditional abortions or give birth alone in the bush leaving their newborn child behind. Many girls also lack basic information on sexual reproduction and awareness of sexually transmitted infections and talk openly about the harassments they suffer from neighbors, classmates and even teachers.
To sum up, the prevention campaigns regarding HIV and sexual health promotion projects in the school or community settings in rural areas are rare and the population has no access to regular HIV/AIDS and/ or family planning information services leaving female initiation rites and the godmothers involved in these rites the principal sources of sexuality education for female adolescents.
Therefore this paper based on the perceptions of female adolescents from northern Mozambique of the 10th grade regarding initiation rites discusses how interventions in the school setting can take advantage of the positive aspects of the initiation rites and make sexuality education in the school community culturally sensitive. Finally, given the emotional importance of the initiation rites the suggested approached goes far beyond cognitive knowledge.
(1) Kotanyi, S. & Krings-Ney, B. (2009). Introduction of culturally sensitive HIV prevention in the context of female initiation rites: an applied anthropological approach in Mozambique, African Journal of AIDS Research, 8 (4), 491-502. (2) Vilaça, T., Nota J., & Mabote, C. (2013). The Curricula of Sexuality Education in Mozambican and Portuguese Schools: What are the challenges for teachers and international partnerships? In E. Agaoglu, C. Terzi, C. Kavrayici, D. Aydug, & B. Himmetoglu (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of ATEE – Teacher education policies and professionalization (pp. 331-351). Brussels: ATEEaisbl. Accessed at http://www.atee1.org/uploads/atee_2012_proceedings.pdf (3) Wolf, A. (2007). Medical dialogue between traditional experts and biomedical health workers in Kasungu, Malawi. Eschborn, Germany: GTZ HIV Practice Collection. (4) Bagnol, B. & Mariano, E. (2008) Vaginal practices: eroticism and implications for women’s health and condom use in Mozambique. Culture, Health and Sexuality 10(6), pp. 573–585. (5) Holzhausen, B. (2007). ‘Youth Culture in Rural Mozambique’. Swiss Agency: Zurich. Accessed at http://nestcepas.ch/_pdf/Youth_culture_in_rural_Mozambique_summary.pdf.
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