Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Whistle Blow!

What is going on world?

Often people like to say; ‘mind your own business...’ or who cares what is going to happen if you can’t change a thing? These and many other individualistic phrases are very common today yet haven’t managed to bend most African native maxims for community. I was brought up as a child of not only my family but also the village of my birth and it always mattered, and it still does today; what happens outside my unit self. Even here in the UK, an entirely different cultural context I cannot stop caring about my neighbour. This virtue is not only in my cultural upbringing but at the heart of the Christian faith I hold dear; it is the call to loving the neighbour as one loves themselves. There are a myriad of issues happening across the world, some very terrific; gearing us to the right direction yet others are so heart breaking and are pulling us back. Nowadays news have become like bugs seeing how easily they have found their way even to our mobile phones. We can literally tell what is happening in all the corners of the world at almost every second from the comfort of our seats. Perceptibly, with the wake of virtual living there has emerged so many ‘multiple issues self made gurus’ and I’m not attempting to be one of these ‘gurus’ but rather daring to speak about an issue of great concern.

The other morning I woke up with a deep feeling of disheartening in my heart reflecting on what I had read about a move by my Kenyan President. Under ‘the new global campaign to scale up the war on HIV and Aids among adolescents’, he launched the condoms for kids campaign.  This particular issue made me feel a deep sorrow, I do not know where nor how to start in my ranting and worse yet to whom I should direct it. Is it the parents who have failed in parenting their kids? Is it the kids usual I don’t care attitude on what their parents say? Or is it the failure of the institutions of learning to educate the young people on moral issues. Where is the problem? Shall I blame the government and its chief for going public to offer condoms instead of ‘condoming’ the root cause(s) of the increased adolescent sexual behaviour? Or shall I blame it on the decay in the entire moral fabric. I’m not ready to mind my own business in this one. I ask, what happens when we are faced with the dilemma between our grip on maintaining our spiritual or cultural stand on values and trying to fix the consequences of our inability to sustain such values that we still must hold dear?

Sex? Kids? and Condoms????? What relationship is there?

There is a question worth asking ourselves; what knowledge, understanding and perceptions do we have about sex. The reason I ask this question is because the answer builds us our premise about the whole issue of sexuality subsequently affecting our reaction to the condom for kids’ issue. Other factors such as the first sexual experience also influence on our reactions mainly because we often tend to see things as we are or as we have experienced them. I may take it as an obvious truth that there is nothing as fulfilling as when someone experiences things at the right time, the right place and for the right reasons. Nonetheless, for things to happen that way or close to; one would be required as we say in business vibe, ‘to hold all factors constant’. Equally for sex to be experienced and enjoyed as a fulfilling prize and as intimately as intended in creation there is a price to be paid and support to be offered by the caring and loving people despite our ever increasingly secularised world. Although we may not yet be within the finishing lap of the race to perfection, in faith and hope, there is within our soul statuses as seen in our desires, reflected in our character and communicated in our behaviours that which clearly indicates which direction we are heading in the light of such perfection. The marks of perfection may be defined differently by different societies and cultures but for those of the Christian faith Christ defines it and invites to live like him.

It is only in the light of such mark(s), whether defined by the society or within the practice of faith, that we can weigh the issue of sexuality avoiding much bias. The making of decisions or failure to make them by the parent, the government, the community or the adolescents does affect which way one navigates individually and in the long run as a society. There seems to be two significant issues that in my opinion seem imperfectly intertwined together like the strands of a rope waiting to be used to gallows our long preserved moral values. On one hand there is the increased practice of sex among underage kids, its consequences and the role of media in propagating this practise. On the other hand is the high level of the permissiveness by most of the society of the mass distributing of condoms to ‘cover’ the consequences of their behaviour or misbehaviour certainly. 

Though the claim that more kids are practising sex demands real statistical backing, the issue is of big concern and there is an urgent need to find out where the rains are beating us. Sex and the deep urge for sex is not a new phenomenon to humanity or to the animal kingdom however in both situations there is the right stage naturally or morally constructed and observed. Any assertion that the current times are comprised of a more sexually active teenage or adolescent age would definitely demand scientific proofs which if I’m not wrong indicate otherwise. However the issue at hand does bring to the limelight that there is more irresponsible, or ill informed practice of sex at very early stages of life than there has been before. Things get even trickier because unlike past there is the horror of more sexually transmitted diseases than before all of which are among the tokens freely albeit painfully available to the victims. I’m not sure that this is the most fitting illustration for human sexuality but anyway it may make sense to some that wanting sex so badly but is far from being ready or in need of the same.

Where is the roof leaking?

What might be some of the reasons why there is increased irresponsible or ill informed practice of sex at very early stages of life? I think we cannot just blame it on the urge for sex for this is obviously natural on normal occasions and it’s nothing new nor a preserve for any generation in time. The urge for sex however is a strong one and one that if not mastered or worse off if not understood has the potential to enslave many and blow anyone promiscuously out of proportion. The topic of sex is one that not many expressly address intergenerational especially in the African context, or if they dare to do it only goes as far as offering information rather than relevant lessons. For instance how much is learnt at homes, schools, and churches or within any societal gatherings about the same? I’m not talking about that which is basically offered through the education system but that which manages to rise above the pages of any book or go beyond the words of any instructor into its realisation in the real life. Given that we often get most of the life’s key information and lessons from our families, our friends and our faith; if in any case these life influencers sweep under the rug the issue of sex and sexuality it thus creates a very big awareness void. This void met by the strong urge for sex leaves them so exposed and with few options. They are left alone in a wild jungle to find or randomly discover information from other sources, which often like unfed vultures, are out to exploit them.

We, you and I; have in a big way failed as a society in abandoning them in the wild jungle where there are hardly any rules; no boundaries, no maps nor are there any sieves for the content that comes their way. It is a place full of mishmash of facts and myths about sexuality and this does not work to the advantage of any young person, in any case all it does is to multiply their vulnerability and risk. Without going into details there is so much content from their peers, the media; both mass and social, the films, music, the internet, the books… name them. Some helpful but most is junk. Daily this content is being shoved into the faces, minds, hearts and lives of so many unarmed young minds and it is what is shaping their world views. All this ends up being reflected in their lifestyles on a daily basis. Gone are the days a boy would have to risk physically going to ‘hunt’ for a girl at the danger of being found at the fence by the parents or being chased by the prospects dogs. Nowadays all ‘these games’ can be plotted and executed, without any fear of not only being stopped nor even spotted, using the technology often bought to the young people by the same parent who is ‘losing’ the game. The environment and the cultural context have totally changed and so has the diet consumed from them. A parent’s just saying yes or no to things without details or explanations of why not hasn’t done enough to neither win the game of parenting nor offer any help to the young person to win the battle towards rightly practising sex. This is a battle that the young people will not win alone and it is also one that if we watch them lose we will be drowning together with them.

We may at times let the kids touch the fire flame,
but only in folly can we cheer them jump into the  fire.
This leads us to the question we all need to start asking ourselves; whether we are advocating for the right sexual experiences within our culture and society, or we are moving towards being content and permissive of the so called ‘safe sex’ especially amongst the adolescents. Have we done all that can be humanly possible and the only remaining option is overwhelmingly issuing condoms to the kids? How do we feel about the issue of the mass distributing of condoms to the kids to help cover them from the raging storms of the consequences of their behaviour or misbehaviour certainly? I obviously I’m not dismissing the whole idea of condom for kids just yet, but I’m also not ready to openly make it appear to the kids that the gates are wide open for them to jump out. I believe the policy has it place in trying to ensure that those who practice sex are protect themselves from contracting HIV and AIDS but there is more important things that must be done to be regarded as accountable stewards to our young. Which side of our concern for the kids are we pushing harder, is it doing the best in our stewardship mandate by putting up better measures to ensure they only get to practice sex when it is right to do so or are we happy to leave them to their own tools by settling for safe sex.

Taking the right positions for the battle;

Having highlighted above the change in the nature of the playing field on which things are happening today there is the honest demand for a very well strategized team work among all the stakeholders of the lives of the adolescents. All parties have a role to play. How is the government fulfilling its role in coming up with relevant ways to strictly control the rightness of the content that young people are being exposed to daily. Have strict measures been put in place to control if not ban some of the media content to ensure it is not consumed by those below the age it is worthy of? The families, the teachers and the faithful friends also have a role to play; have they openly shared the truths and the myths about sex as well as the consequences of irresponsible sex? It must not remain a taboo for any senior members of the society to offer wise counsel about this giant in the room for when the storms beat us not one will be spared the weight of its consequences. For the relation based lessons to take their right place, the biggest drive must be true love and genuine compassion for our young ones anchored on the faith we profess and our desire to be responsible stewards of those we are responsible to. The approach of intimidations and threats not to practice sex as a tool for discipline does not have any much room in the current cultural context and it would be better to use an informed and dialogue way of parenting. Without an informed or even better a transformed heart and mind not even a hundred slashes or slaps can tame the urge for sex and there will still be damages to count. This is not just a call to be reactive to the situation that is slowly eating away our future as we watch but also one invites us towards proactive measures to safeguard those we love and are accountable to. It demands of us a thorough analysis of sex and age disaggregated data and genuine action on such recommendation as arising from such data.

I stand to be counted as one not in overwhelming support of the idea of giving condoms to kids but one who advocates for the ‘condoming’ or dealing with the issues that are daily making irresponsible sex look so easy and appealing. Most of the problems that have made the current context complex are not natural calamities but rather man-made and can therefore be worth waging a winning war against. I stand as an advocate for a revolutionised approach by the society in addressing this issue; towards an informed and responsible upbringing of the young people, towards a strictly controlled web environment where most of the young people get most of their data and spend most of their time. It is on the social media where these young people are most vulnerable; there they are groomed and misled and in the end lured for sexual abuse without the realisation of even their closest kin. Irresponsible sexual behaviour may not cause sudden death like terrorism does but the disillusioned scar it leaves in the souls of innocent lives can be worse especially if it arises in an environment characterised by an asymmetry of information. Giving condoms as a major way of fighting this battle is such a skewed hypothesis that assumes the main consequence of sex is HIV AIDS, furthermore, it is a very deep stereotypical assumption that the current generation of young people are beyond any moral remedy. I believe there are so many young people in this age group who if they knew the future implications of what this label that is being stuck on them would be so upset for the right reasons. What takes more courage, what even is more virtuous between explaining to a young person why and how to use condom and why not to engage in early sex?

Blow the whistle, do not seat back please;

It is not my routine to openly criticise the leadership of my nation but it is also not my nature to sit back when I can say something I consider helpful and urgent for not only in our current day affairs but one that matters even for our future. Reflecting on this issue in the light of its weightiness reminds me of the story of the humming bird that the late Prof. Wangari Maathai often shared and one that shaped her philosophy. She makes an invitation that is humble and so simple yet one of the greatest I’ve come across in life. She calls us to be like the hummingbird that with its little beak dared to put out the forest fire, you can watch the YouTube link above for more.  My attempt is not to offer a conclusive solution to the entire issue but to do the best that can in being a good steward by advocating for healthy dialogue towards right policies and living. I have not written this to offer a 1, 2, 3… ways to deal with the issue but all I want to start is constructive conversations that can help us face the issue at hand as a team. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment…. Though I am aware that I can’t cut the ‘Mugumo’ tree with a razor blade perhaps I can dare if I dig into the soil and cut its roots.

Newton G K
Church Youth Worker

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