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Yes I Do – Sex talk taboo

Talking about sexuality

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Tags: Children, CSE, Ethiopia, Schools, Sexuality education, Yes I Do

‘The social values and norms in the village where I grew up were very strict.’ Amlakale, 16 years old, is a grade 7 student in primary school in Ethiopia. The Yes I Do programme informed him on his sexual and reproductive health and rights. Now he is informing other children and their parents.

Young people weren’t free to talk about sexuality where I grew up. It was even considered a taboo to talk about menstruation, sexual intercourse, about contraceptive methods etc. Most of us were afraid of being judged by others and didn’t want anyone to point to us saying ‘look at them: they have the wrong priorities for their age! Their parents may think they are studying well, but instead they are talking about sexuality."


At first Amlakale found it difficult to have discussions with his parents. The turning point came when his parents attended the exhibition he made as part of the Meharebe club, an in-school comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programme. “My friends and I have presented what we were talking about in the Meharebe club. I could tell from the expression on their face how impressed they were. Puberty, body change, friendship, sexual intercourse, risks of unsafe sex etc are issues they undoubtedly want us to be aware of. However, they find it difficult to talk about it to us. I felt that what holding them back were the strict norms.’

Gender roles

In the programme he also learned about gender, gender roles, and gender based division of labour. Amlakale: ‘when my mom was pregnant, I considered home activities to be only her responsibility. Not only that, if I’d go into the kitchen and try to cook or to fetch water, my friends would call me “womanish” or “unmanly”. However, after our teacher facilitated the topic titled Pregnancy for Boys and Girls, I felt really ashamed of myself for not helping my mom when she was pregnant. I know I can’t go back, but I now understand that although women get pregnant and carry the baby biologically, men should and could have an equal share in the household and caregiving when the baby is born. Any activities, especially domestic activities can be done by both men and women. It is not naturally given.”

Life skills

‘The Yes I Do Meherebe* club helps us developing life skills; skill they acquire on dealing with growing up, body change and about their sexual and reproductive health while protecting oneself from HIV/AIDS and STI’s.’

* Meherebe means handkerchief. Metaphorical it means that the youth and adolescent through CSE and life skills lessons can protect and be well aware of their body, hence relating to the handkerchief used to clean yourself and be presentable in a way that you are aware of yourself and be confident.

By: Marlies Pilon

The Meherebe club is implemented by the Yes I Do local partner DEC Ethiopia.




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