What you need to know:
- Parents of Generation Y children had such a difficult time getting things done that when they got their own children, they were determined to have them lead a much easier life.
- Sex education can be fun but still honest so be cool about it! Finally, teach them, especially girls, to be proactive in protecting themselves.
More than 40 percent of new HIV infections are among young people aged 15-24 years old.
To bring it home, this is somebody who has just started high school or is a ‘fresher’ at the university.
Young people are having sex and the age at which people are having their first sexual experience is getting younger by the day.
Parents send their children to school as innocent and inexperienced human beings but by the time four years are over, they have become well versed in this matter, sometimes more than their parents were at this age.
Not so long ago, sex was sacred and serious. To engage in it, you had to be married. In some cultures, your wedding night was the community’s business because in the morning they had to check if the lady was a virgin.
But not so today! Things have changed since we are living in the age of the internet where information on sex can be found at the push of a button.
In 2005, Peter Sheahan published a book titled Generation Y: Surviving with Generation Y at Work.
While the book is about the work environment and could be considered ‘old’ because we now have a Generation Z, it carries some very valuable insights.
Sheahan begins the book by explaining who Generation Y is; their characteristics and why they are the way they are.
As you read the book, two things stand out about Generation Y. One, their need to be in control and two, their need to know the ‘why’ behind everything they are told to do or not do.
He goes on to explain where these characteristics came from. In summary, parents of Generation Y children had such a difficult time getting things done that when they got their own children, they were determined to have them lead a much easier life.
This led them to give their children independence and because they are busy working, little attention.
Their children (Generation Y) grow up making decisions for themselves, living life on their own terms and questioning everything that doesn’t make sense to them, and with the internet because it became popular during this period.
These same traits can be seen in Generation Y’s children but with an added intensity. To reduce HIV infections in this age group, actions taken must put these two characteristics into consideration.
How do we do it? We need to talk about sex and its related topics differently. Sex is a difficult topic to discuss.
Most families don’t have meaningful discussions because it is not something they grew up talking about.
In today’s world, you cannot afford to have sex as a taboo subject.
If you don’t talk about it at home, where important foundations are set, someone else, mostly the internet, will do the talking for you and you won’t be there to sift the information with a sieve of fact and fiction.
There’s a Swahili saying that warns us, “Asiye funzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu” and the world can be a terrible teacher.
We know the best way to avoid HIV is by abstaining. However, it’s not enough to tell this to the youth of today nor is “sex is great but only within the confines of marriage”.
They will abstain but only under our watchful eye. Out there, we don’t know half of what peer pressure can achieve.
We need to go beyond the call for abstinence and show them the pros of abstinence and make them understand why it would be a good choice for them. Win them over.
Don’t force them. However, some will hear nothing of abstinence so talk with them about contraceptives and their proper use too.
If you don’t know about this, accompany them to a clinic or have school education programmes where this information can be provided.
Sex education can be fun but still honest so be cool about it! Finally, teach them, especially girls, to be proactive in protecting themselves.
That means asking their partners to take HIV tests and to use protection, and being able to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty about it.
This deep understanding of sexual matters and enhanced personal confidence is the beginning of good decision-making and hopefully lower HIV infections.
Let our youth operate from a point of knowledge so that they are able to bear the negative consequences of their actions.
Ms Wanjohi is the founder, Mazingira Safi Initiative. [email protected]