“Control your mind so you can control the downstairs”- Healthy Family Life Education (HFLE) Curriculum Teacher
As I sit in the airport, slightly missing the sounds of the waves crashing and Omega’s omelets, I process the things I’ve learned about the journey along the way. Before coming to Grenada, I likened it to growing up in Trinidad, because in my mind, the islands were too close together to be totally different.
The most salient memory for me was being present at a meeting with Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) teachers and community stakeholders at the Ministry of Education. My role in this meeting was to listen and see if there were any highlights that could be used in my project, which was to help Grenada’s Planned Parenthood Association (GPPA) to implement the first national sexual and reproductive health survey.
As I listened to the views of the teachers clashing with that of the stakeholders, I could feel my blood boiling. I was feeling heated but I had to remind myself that it wasn’t my place to judge. I heard several teachers talk about their challenges with the curriculum and some challenges within the school system. What particularly struck me was one teacher’s view that the students were too young to learn to condomize in form one (age range is about 11-13). She spoke about her adjustments to the ABC’s from Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomize to Abstain, Be Mindful and Have Control. This one comment sparked a major debate among stakeholders in the room. Some citing the fact that children may have already been engaging in sexual activity or the view that children cannot consent to sex before sixteen and as such shouldn’t be taught this information.
I watched in awe as emotions ran high, while at the same time trying to process my own thoughts and views. In fact, in Trinidad, I went to an Anglican primary school and a Catholic secondary school. I understand the nuances that existed, the importance of prayer and the influence of the church. I was a product of strict abstinence-only education and values clarification classes. However, even though I understand the nuances, having lived through a similar system, I still felt frustrated by the fact that attitudes about abstinence being the best way have yet to change.
Nevertheless, it is through these experiences, I fell in love with public health. They fuel my passion and keep me motivated to challenge the status quo. In an area, where sex is taboo and a direct contradiction to what one might hear in music or see through dances, the survey that GPPA aims to undertake has potential ripple effects through the region. So even though, I may not see instantaneous change by the end of that meeting, I believe that it’s hard to argue with the facts, especially those that may emerge from this survey by GPPA, and maybe one day, we’ll move away from evading talking about sex and call body parts by their medical names.