Sunday, March 4, 2012


As a continuation to the blog I wrote a few weeks ago about Relationships, I wanted to follow up with some projects I have been apart of that target early pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/ AIDS.  Despite the fact that condoms are readily available most men choose not to use them. They won't admit this but after talking to the ladies it appears the usage is limited. Early pregnancy is a huge problem here as well as the spread of STD’s.

Project Diobe:

Diobe is a small town located 18km from my small little village. Every Wednesday people arrive from around Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mali and the Gambia to trade and sell goods.  Because there are so many people coming and going it is a optimal place for prostitution. USAID reported that this area  is one of the few places, in Senegal, that has a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The Diobe Market

In Diobe, Packing up a bus (picture by Chealsea Moeller

Having previous success with a local theater group, I organized a day to educate this market community about HIV/AIDS. We invited other NGO’s to join us and had a local testing center come to offer free testing.  We interviewed participants on their knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS and the results were quite eye opening. We had an array of responses for ways one can contract AIDS including kissing, sharing food, and giving a massage.  Only a few people were able to explain how the HIV virus is different than other diseases and less than half knew how often they should get tested.  The results of these interviews showed that it is necessary to continue this type of education.  Out of the 34 participants that got tested, only one was positive.

With the local doctor and health educator (RtoL)

Sam &Ally passing out condoms and encouraging people to get tested

Testing Crew

Theater Group sketch about AIDS

Project Family Planning:
Myself and five other volunteers organized a series of trainings that aimed to educate men about the benefits of family planning. Many women do not have a choice when it comes to the number of children birthed. They rely on their husbands for money to buy birth control and more often than not they do not provide funding. I can not tell you how many times I have been  approached by women to pay for their contraceptive (it cost a dollar for a three month depo shot). It is this reason why we thought targeting men might be a better way to inspire change. The trainings were all very successful and brought up interesting and controversial issues.
Like the current birth control protest in the United States many religious people feel that it is against God’s will to use family planning methods.  This issue was brought up on several occasions and one of the local health agents working with us did an excellent job at responding to this type of question.  Their argument was simply that "God tells you to take care of and provide for your family.  If your children or wives are dying due to malnutrition, or you can’t afford to send all your children to school, or give them proper clothing then you are not doing your job as a husband." The other argument was natural spermicides.  Why does God provide natural medicines if he does not want you to use them.  i  Both of these arguments really opened up the room for discussion and though there are always the stubborn men that always disagree, there were many who found insight in what was said.  In fact, after our trainings, one of the hospitals saw a rise in Birth control purchases.

Condom Demo 101

Activity about providing for your children. We broke up everyone into "families" some with 20 people and some with 2. Then we gave them the same amount of bread and told them to feed everyone. It was a hit! 

Female Condom

Family Planning Group! 

Project Early Pregnancy:

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t bring up this issue to someone. It breaks my heart to see 13 and 14 year-old girls pregnant.  In nearly every case they have to drop out of school to take care of this child who has no acknowledged father. Because they have brought both shame and burden to their family they usually become the main woman worker of the house.  Every woman that I know who has had a teenage pregnancy is unhappy and tells me how difficult her life is.  It is frustrating that her child will be limited because of her status.
I have had a series of events that have targeted both young girls and boys to talk about the risks of sex.  We have a big event coming up at the local high school that will talk about delaying sex and over-coming peer pressure.   This past week we had a seminar for 20 elementary school girls to talk about empowerment and career opportunities. We challenged them to think about what it means to be an African woman, what characteristics are important and what things can prohibit them from achieving their goals. We talked a lot about early pregnancy and how it can ruin your dreams and life.  Hopefully these girls will think twice when they face these types of situations.

Group Shot, Girls Seminar 

Making Empowerment Bracelet 

  From just the number of young mothers in my village, I know these children are having sex. To look the other way and not share knowledge of protection is, in my opinion, the bigger sin.  After having these types of conversations, many people do see the importance of sex education with younger children.  My hope is that as people become more open minded future generations will have more opportunity to implement these concepts into their lives.