We had the pleasure of presenting at the Lead On Again Young Women’s Leadership Program in Melbourne’s inner west in January this year. This program invites young women from developing countries - including Nepal, Myanmar, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Romania and Vietnam - who are currently studying in Australia, and provides them with the opportunity to engage in topics that are important to young women. The Water Well Project has been involved in this program in previous years, and we were privileged to be invited again this year.
We facilitated an interactive session on sexual and reproductive health, focusing on sexually transmitted infections, contraception and unplanned pregnancies. This session, which can be very confronting, was very well received by the group. We were welcomed by nine enthusiastic young women with eager faces, who proudly introduced themselves and their current area of study, whether at secondary school or university.
Although a little shy in the beginning, we found that by engaging these women with questions and games, they were able to open up and actively and comfortably participate in the session.
The women asked insightful questions and raised some of the issues important to them and their friends. Some highlighted that they had not had an opportunity to discuss and learn more about sexual and reproductive health since early high school. All agreed that it was very important to keep revisiting and speaking openly about these topics, which can otherwise be so easily dismissed.
The young women commented that they learnt new information about sexually transmitted infections, such as symptoms (or that there often aren’t any!) and how they can be treated. In addition they became much more familiar with contraception, in particular the different options available to them, and the importance of condoms.
One of the highlights was brainstorming different responses to give in situations when someone is reluctant or refusing to use a condom. There were some very creative and humorous responses, resulting in big grins and laughter!
Knowing where to access accurate, simple information was something else they were very glad to be able to take away from the session. Others felt reassured having been made aware of different places they can go to seek help if needed.
We found it incredibly rewarding contributing to the Lead On Again program in this capacity, helping to empower these women to have more choice, and to make more informed and safer decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health. It was such a pleasure to facilitate this session and we look forward to being involved again next year!
- by Sarah and Jessica