With South Africa’s current child abuse crisis, Amaze is exactly what young adolescent girls need to understand consent, sexuality and have empowering healthy relationships, according to experts and activists.
According to Darcy Weaver, the project’s associate director, the project is an online, animated video series for 10 to 14 year olds, which tackles the tough questions young people have about their changing bodies, sexuality, healthy relationships and behaviour.
Although making great strides in rural and township areas, Weaver acknowledged the project was seeking to spread awareness among healthcare workers and better equip them in dealing with these issues – and soon even the police globally.
Activists Ijeoma Egwuatu from Nigeria, Helena Nangombe from Namibia, and Patricia Najjita from Uganda, noted the reception in all three countries, and said despite the stigma of talking about comprehensive sexuality education, Amaze has changed a lot of young girls’ lives.
Egwuatu said in many African countries conversations around comprehensive sexuality education have either been banned, stigmatised or even shunned upon, thus leading to misinformation about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/Aids.
We want people to access the videos anywhere “Despite the moral and religious stigma, as soon as you start playing the videos people start engaging and asking questions and this creates space for the conversations to grow,” she said.
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Conversation is moving
Egwuatu added this initiative has helped move the conversation around comprehensive sexuality education to safe spaces, and make it easier to engage, ask but also to make them feel comfortable and not judged for what they need to know.
“The highly successful series originated in the US, and now a portion has been adapted for a South African audience, including translations into Xhosa and Afrikaans, and new locally relevant characters and topics,” Weaver said during a panel discussion yesterday.
She said they were working with NGOs, community groups and the department of education to embed the videos in and out of school activities.
“We want young people to access those videos anywhere they want, anytime,” she said. “But also reach those who do not have access to the internet and, in turn, start those conversations at home, at schools and even among peers and parents.”
Ibis Reproductive Health’s Tshego Bessenar said they were already engaging with the department of basic education (DBE) through the United Nations Population Fund, which has been leading the discussion to have Amaze videos played on the DBE TV.
“It also promotes ongoing commitment to promoting healthy sexual behaviour, reducing the incidence of STIs, and fostering gender equality in Africa,” she noted.
Sexual reproductive health advocate Nthabiseng Mogashoa said there was an urgent need for comprehensive and engaging sexuality education resource for young people, their parents and teachers “because, despite many young people willing to have these conversations, they are not having them in proper context”.
She added: “We are having those conversations as young people and I can attest to it, but many of us are willing to speak more than we are willing to listen.”
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