Twenty-eight people from around the province came together to get the talk. Granted, they didn’t sign up for the stereotypical sit down with the parents: “So son… this is what sex is.” That sort of
awkwardness conversation doesn’t exist; parents often avoid the topic and leave the kids in the dark about the changes happening to their body during puberty. The kids are left with no other option but self-discovery, and if you remember yourself as a teenager, you know that probably is not the best decision.
The weekend started with teenagers ready to impress. Introductions were accompanied by dances and songs, and when I say accompanied, each person would have an entire routine planned after the quick glance over their name. Also, these dances weren’t a quick one trick; each dance and song went on for its entirety. They knew how to get a conference started. Immediately following the club-like atmosphere, the energy kept going through some high paced games.
As the laughing turned into smiles and people began to settle down, we started planning out the rest of the weekend. Each group was responsible for an area of puberty or sexual health. They were free to decide on presentation method and choose a topic; the topics included sex and gender, violence, AIDS/HIV, or STDs.
Imagining something like the classroom, we were ready to have to start assigning a topic for each group. However, peoples hands were shooting up when we were presenting the topics. “Oh. Oh. Can we do that one?” “Can we do that one?”
After each group received a topic, they didn’t skip a beat. People were running off to get supplies and going to their special spot to plan. They were ready and excited to have the opportunity to learn and present. “Where was this energy in the classroom?” I thought to myself. Letting the thought float out of my head, we were excited to see their enthusiasm. This was something new to them and something they wanted to teach about.
After corralling everyone back into the room, we had to tame the crowd for the order to present; everyone wanted to be first to share all of their information. After the dust settled, we began our presentations, and the rest of the day was filled with skits, condom demonstrations, and presentations.
After the sweeping round of applause for each presentation, there was a time for questions for each group. These questions helped to taper the conversation to what the participants really wanted to know, and they had plenty they wanted to know. One of the biggest round of questions that we had was surrounded around menstruation.
When talking about menstruation, the participants were more on their toes than ever before. Apparently, no one had taken the time to explain the basics while they were a child. It was a whole new world for them, and they wanted to understand. Fortunately for the curiosity, people in Mozambique are not shy about sharing very personal details with each other.
Some of the girls decided to take charge and sit up front for an open forum. The questions poured in from sex while you’re on your period to a pad demonstration. Looking around the room during the question time, I noticed that all of the men were fixed with open eyes and curious expressions, just looking for any little bit of information. They were truly amazed at what the girls had to say. This session could have gone on for days with further explanations and demonstrations, but we had already extended the sessions for two and a half hours and their dinner was getting cold.
However, leaving the conference room did not stop them. The conversations continued through the night, but the structured session were over, and in Mozambique, there is no better way to end a conference than with certificates. As the participants filed through one by one, the joy radiated throughout the room. They knew they had something to be proud of; they had participated in a workshop about sexual health and were ready to take what they learned back to the community. Many people came up to the other leaders and me throughout the rest of the night just to express their gratitude. “My parents are going to be so proud of me” was the sentiment that I kept hearing.
After the rounds of certificates, we went out back and went wild with the pictures.
Overall it was a successful weekend with some incredible kids, and I can’t wait to see where they’re going to take things from here.