For Rifat, a 15 year old youngster living in the bucolic Rangpur, sex or anything related to it is not something you discuss with family or teachers.This is a matter of utmost privacy. “When I had my first wet dream, I was scared to death wondering what is wrong with me,” says Rifat, who comes from a humble socio-economic background and studies in the ninth grade in his nearby Gangachora School.
The youngster, along with his school chums who as well are barely informed, if not deluded by the muddling societal concept and dogmas of sexual and reproductive health issues, then went on a voyage to explore their bodies and whatever knowledge was available to them. Masturbation, to these youngsters, waspresented asa reprehensible act, yet with the help of their crony school seniors; they mastered the relevant skills and so effortlessly got a hold of theprerequisite apparatus, pornography.According to a study conducted by Center for Men and Masculinity Studies (CMMS), almost 70 percent school going students in Bangladesh get access to porn between grades 7 and 8.Cases of sexual harassment are prevalent among the school going students, as 40 percent of these youth feels extreme sexual appetite, while gender insensitive behaviors are indoctrinated as the perks of being a man in the society. Many of them are willing to take violent measures to fill their hunger.
In this prejudiced backdrop, where adolescent boys and girls are facing serious challenges in their transition to adulthood, particularly regarding SRH issues, CMMS, a non-profit organization, spearheaded by a Dhaka University Professor, Dr Syed SaikhImtiaz, has launched “Campus Hero Café,” a social campaign targeting young men and boys aged 14 to 21.
“The campaign explores the linkages between enactment of different forms of masculinities and violence against women and girls and seeks to engage young men and boys on sexual and reproductive health and rights and preventing violence against women through self-reflexive dialogue, community activism, and media engagement,” Dr Imtiaz said while explaining the campaign.
Despite of the government’s fervent attempts to improve access to sexual and reproductive health education by introducing chapters the adolescence issues in textbooks, a large portion of the school going youngsters are being deprived or misinformed about their sexual health due to the reluctance of teachers, some of whom have stapled the chapters on SRHR and adolescenceto save the embarrassment of “talking sexual” in front of their innocent students. Living in highly religious and conservative society, there is often a culture of silence when it comes to talking about sex and sexual health.
To meet this gap in knowledge and perception among adolescents, The Campus Hero Café, which provides a safe online learning space called “Challenger Mamu” for students set up by trained university students where young men can raise their questions regarding SRHR in a friendly, nonjudgmental environment, recently organized “SRHR Knowledge Fair” in the premises of 11 schools in different areas of Rangpur from April 24 to 28.
[caption id="attachment_262762" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Photo: Courtesy
The day-long events brought community leaders, teachers, students and parents together and engaged them in interactive and instructive activities. Magician Anik and his partner Trisha amazed the audience with their dumbfounding magic tricks, while Jalputul employed Puppetry to teach the young participants how to use Challenger Mamu, a mobile app which provides the adolescents an open space to discuss and learn about their sexual and reproductive health issues with experts.
“It is impressive to see how we can fight these societal taboos through utilizing Smartphone and internet. Adolescent students have the right to know about their sexual health and the exchange of this knowledge has been made easier than ever by the Challenger Mamu App,” said NahimRazzaq, a Member of the Parliament, was present as the chief guest in the event.
“The mobile app “Challenger Mamu” was developed wherein young men and boys can anonymously ask SRHR questions to experts,” Dr Imtiaz said on the app. He added, “An 11-episode television reality show documenting the Campus Hero Café activities are simultaneously being made to demonstrate the positive male role models and their active engagement in SRHR and prevention of violence and against women.”
“We have myriads of questions, which are too embarrassing to ask around or discuss with our parents or teachers, or any knowledgeable adults for that matter. So, the only people we go to are our close friends and seniors,” Rifat said. “Our access to internet is limited, so is our knowledge of browsing beyond Facebook. Then a team of university students came to our classes and introduced us with the app, Challenger Mamu, which I found to be really helpful to avoid the confusions and misconceptions.”
Three bioscope like mobile cafes containing animated videos travelled to different schools to raise awareness about sexual health rights, adolescence, cyber bulling and sexual harassment.
Matin Ahmed, one of the participating teachers, informed that teachers and civil society organizations are also being trained to facilitate dialogues using self-reflexive tools such as the BraveMen Diary and encourage student-led activism to prevent violence against women.