Education where it’s needed most

Women’s health and sex education: this was the subject of the workshop jointly carried out by Action from Switzerland, Nurture Project International, WAHA (Women’s Alliance for Health International) and UNHCR at our Athena Centre for Women. We had just an hour and a half to communicate things a Swiss teacher passes on over the course of many weeks – and it was already obvious from the start that there was nowhere near enough time. Especially once it became clear that some participants lacked even the basics of the subject.

Participating were teenage girls, women of various ages, a midwife from Nurture Project International, female volunteers from UNHCR and a Syrian doctor from WAHA. Relationships of trust quickly developed between these women, girls and volunteers, which made it easier for intimate questions to be asked. In addition to the explicit and patient answers they received, this was the biggest plus of the session – because the only way the hosts were able to fill the large gaps in knowledge was by allowing an open and diverse round of questions. And so some teenagers heard what menstruation is for the first time, about the existence of contraception and how it works.

The women and girls cannot be blamed for their lack of knowledge, the reasons – be they cultural or due to interrupted education in the war-torn countries they come from – could be debated endlessly. The most important thing is that all girls and women everywhere should be able understand their bodies, have a healthy relationship with them and decide on potential pregnancies themselves. Whether they use contraception or not should be their own decision, and no one should withhold knowledge about it from them.

The importance of this type of event in a safe environment cannot be underestimated, because it gives them a feeling of self-confidence and safety – something that is especially rare in this horrendous time of great upheaval, danger and constant uncertainty. The Athena Centre for Women offers space for this type of class and many other activities. At the same time, it is a safe haven for girls and women who are going through an incredibly difficult time in their lives.

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