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Stigma and shame about sex is leading to a generation of young people in Senegal who don’t know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. But with many young people reluctant to go to formal health settings, how can we reach them?
In Senegal, the Marie Stopes team has responded to this challenge by taking the information to where they know young people will be: in Dakar, that’s often the beach. Here are some of the insights we received:
“Let me tell you one thing: women don’t get so many babies here because they want to, but because they don’t have a clue about family planning. Senegal is a highly religious country with conservative morals, especially when it comes to sex. How many children people have depends on their wealth and education. The poorer and less educated, the more children. And what future do all these kids have?
“People are starting to realise that it’s not exactly easy to raise 12 children. But these changes occur very slowly. It’s fundamental that organisations like Marie Stopes help spread awareness, especially among young people.”
— Pape, Dakar
“Talking about sex is a big taboo here. Sex outside of marriage doesn’t even exist. Officially, that is, because of course it happens. What do you think? Youngsters here want to experiment and live life to the fullest just like people anywhere else.”
— Thiki, Dakar
“Of course we have lovers, girlfriends and boyfriends here, too. The thing is, if you have a girlfriend, you tell it to nobody. Certainly not to your family, but often neither to your best friends. You are always afraid that somebody will find out and make a scandal.
“But what to do? Sex is a natural part of life, I think. However, because it’s so criminalised and secretive here, lots of people lack even the most basic knowledge about stuff like contraception, STIs and so on. That certainly goes for many friends here on the beach.”
— Elhadj, Dakar
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