To raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues that are often overlooked within our society is how eighteen year old Campionite, Chelsea Wright describes the movement, Girls Who Know.
“I’ve always been involved in youth advocacy but it was never my intention to start something of my own, I never saw myself doing that,” she told Youthlink.
She said she encountered a turning point when she came by an article in which the head of the Family Planning board of Jamaica expressed deep concern over a case that included a fifteen year old girl being raped by a pastor.
“She (the President) had said how really and truly girls don’t know about their human rights and their sexual and reproductive health or rights at all. For me, I was just thinking ‘abstinence’ but I realized it was way more to it than that so I got thinking,” she said.
The next move was to carry out a series of tests where she raised questions in her peer groups and through self-examination to see how much of the things known about reproductive and sexual health were learned in school.
She soon found that sexual education in The Health and Family Life (HFLE) curriculum used throughout the Caribbean, was encompassed only under one module. “That is not enough,” she said. “For sexual education to be very effective, it needs to be taught from an unbiased perspective and taught within the context of the students.”
A year after conceptualization, Girls Who Know was launched in October 2017. “As a group, we use our platform on social media and via other traditional forms of media like forums and radio to speak on these things that may not be touched in the classroom through the HFLE syllabus. Things like relationships, sexuality, gender, reproductive safety and consent.”
She recaps an impressive couple of months, so far. “We’ve gone to a few clubs at schools where we spoke about a topic.”
She explained, “We, however, know that we do not hold all the answers to all information that needs to be taught and that's why we have invited Health professionals like general practitioners, gynaecologists and psychologists. Influential Women like Emprezz Golding from Talk Up Yout, Nicole Mclaren-Campbell and Jeneque Pinnock, a princess from Miss Jamaica Universe are some of the women that joined in to endorse the message.”
Girls Who Know and then some
“While building the proposal before the launch I tackled two sustainable development goals of the UN – goal 4 and goal 5. Goal 4 was quality education and in doing the initiative, I wanted to ensure that the information I was giving was correct and that it was suitable for both genders,” explained Wright when asked about the inclusion of males in her campaign.
She continued, “Goal 5, however, basically zoomed in on female empowerment and gender equality and when we’re talking about gender equality, we can’t leave the guys out.”
Pinpointing aspects of our Jamaican culture, the articulate sixth former said, “I feel we’ve been taking the wrong approach where we target girls when girls aren’t the ones who don’t see themselves as equals, it’s guys as well. Even though it’s education and empowerment for girls, when the guys benefit from the education they will learn as well to respect women. A culture shift has to occur.”
Her thirty three member team includes some males and mostly females. Half of the team attends Campion College meanwhile the rest of the group is from schools like Excelsior High, Camperdown High, Ardenne High, St Hugh’s High, St Andrew’s High, Wolmer’s Girls’ School and Meadowbrook High.
The deputy head girl said her Campion High family has received her intentions well and her group has used the school’s auditorium to host forums.
“At first, I didn’t want to make it a school thing tied to any one institution, I wanted it to be independent of that because I see this going way further than just a school thing. It’s not a club or a student led organization, it’s youth led,” she said.
She continued, “However, because we’re in school now, I partnered with the UN club at Campion and reached out to the teachers and administrative staff who were all for it. I’ve been getting really good feedback from Campion and the alumni as well, the support for the movement is there.”
For Chelsea, Girls Who Know is something she plans to continue, well into her adult years. “My ultimate goal is to get it funded as part of the United Nations where you have Girls Who Know specific to different countries,” she said.
To join Girls Who Know Jamaica, find them on Facebook and Instagram (@GirlsWhoKnowJa) and register at the link in their bio. To send them a message, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pull quote – “Even though it’s education and empowerment for girls, when the guys benefit from the education they will learn as well to respect women. A culture shift has to occur.”