photo: One of the large billboards around Rwanda warning youth of the danger of adults, shuga dadi and shuga mami, who give gifts in return for sexual favours.
Can we talk about sex, money and power?
What are you prepared to do to earn some money or to make sure that you stay in school? For many youth in Rwanda, the decision seems to be out of their control. Consider this story.
“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”
Or how about this one. “We live in a horrible situation. My sister is a prostitute. I feel pressure to do this…I don’t know what to do.”
These are true stories.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to hear that 500 teen pregnancies were reported by schools in 2012. The number is higher. Many more have gone unreported. Some of these may be due to misguided young emotions or lack of proper sex education, but many are also the result of intimidation – teachers and others in position of authority or respect in the community abusing their power. “Sleep with me or you will be sent home from school.”
Then there are stories of youth violence, like a girl raped by friends of her boyfriend simply because she refused to have sex with him. And stories of exploitation – shuga daddies and shuga mammies taking advantage of youth, offering gifts of money, clothes, food, good times, cars, in return for some “loving” – a little sex for a little attention and nice things. There is no real love behind the shuga! Too many youth are selling themselves short and are at an increased risk of catching STDs and AIDS. God desires so much more for each one of these precious, young lives so full of potential. It starts with a love for God that helps us to love ourselves for who we are and then love others around us in healthy, respectful ways.
Abuse was a prominent theme in our first short film, Tears of Hope, created and performed by youth at one of our peace camps. It’s a powerful glimpse into the life of a young orphan taken in by a family. We thank Almond Trees Film Rwanda for helping us share this story. We hope it sparks more conversation. And to help youth know that they are not alone and that they have value and true love in God’s eyes. We hope they are empowered to realize their self worth, have personal dignity and treat others with respect.
We will continue to explore these and other issues facing youth today at the next peace camp including peer counselling and health sessions for more learning on healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy relationships and the use of drama and the arts to be able to open up difficult dialogue.
It’s time to talk and listen to each other.
Help support this youth peace media initiative. Send a youth to peace camp.