Sex Education in El Salvador

My husband, who closely follows and blogs about news in El Salvador, posted a story today about the lack of holistic sex education in El Salvador.  Readers of this blog know that reproductive education, precocious pregnancy and sexual abuse of girls and teens are persistent areas of focus in our work with the church and particularly during the Missions of Healing Education fairs which we conduct each year.  For a bit of background on these topics, readers may wish to refer to Girls and Sex Education as well as How can this Be?

A couple of months ago, I started working with a pastor who has a congregation in a small town and a mission congregation in a remote mountainous zone, a 2-hour walk outside of town.  Over the past 2 years, the pastor had done some teaching about menstruation during the Missions of Healing in conjunction with the distribution of Days for Girls kits (washable menstruation kits).  With her confidence and experience, the pastor did a little teaching in her community and soon the local schools created a space for her to come in and teach a series of classes about boundaries, puberty, reproduction and sexuality.  The pastor distributes Days for Girls kits to as many girls ages 9-18 as she can. 

As we discussed possibilities for finding financial support for her work, the pastor emphasized the need for holistic sex education for girls and boys in remote communities such as hers.  She was currently aware of three girls, each nine years old, who were pregnant.  She said girls like these get pregnant before they even have their first period.  In El Salvador, there is no option to terminate a pregnancy.  No matter how the girls became pregnant, and no matter how high risk for the girls the pregnancy may be, the girls must have the babies.

In light of my husband's posting today, I decided to do a little anecdotal research of my own...

My co-worker in the church offices is a female university student, in her 20's, from a small town north of San Salvador.  I asked her what her experiences were in school with sex education.  This is a recollection of her comments:
Oh we learned everything.  When I was in 8th grade someone from the local health clinic came in and taught us, and they showed us everything (judging from her gestures, I imagine the medical staff brought in the same plastic models they use in the Mission of Healing presentations) and gave us The Talk.  The boys got... condoms and the girls got the pills if they needed them.   When we were in high school we had a health class so we learned everything in detail in the context of health.
Back in elementary school, we had different people come in and teach us with different charlas (educative discussions).  A police officer came in.  Clinic people came in.  It was all done by the government.  Sex education used to be something that the government provided.  It is not like that now.  Now the government does nothing.  There are new rules that youth under age 18 cannot access the things they need if they are active, like condoms or birth control.  I don't know why, but now there is nothing. 
 The work that the Lutheran Church does in providing holistic sex and reproductive education is not always welcomed.  After one Mission of Healing Family Wellness Fair, some parents complained to the school after educators brought the youth to learn about sex and sexually transmitted diseases.  The parents complained to the local pastor and prohibited their children from attending the church.  One year later, the local school asked the pastor to come into the school to teach classes about ethics and holistic sex education.  Parents realized this education had important value for their children.

As my husband points out at the conclusion of his article, cooperation among all the adults in the lives of children and youth is essential in providing young people with accurate knowledge and practical tools they need to preserve their health, protect their bodies from abuse, achieve their educational goals and determine when and if they wish to become parents.  Mandatory, quality education is step 1. 


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