Last month, TabuTabu’s founder Laura traveled to El Porvenir (Honduras) to work with Honduras Child Alliance’s Education Coordinator Dania and the wider HCA team on two fronts: The hosting of the second Reglas y Copas menstrual education workshop, and the preparations for implementing sexuality education activities in HCA’s programming, the focus being community outreach. Here’s why and how we’re engaging the wider El Porvenir community, and the initial reactions!
TabuTabu’s Laura (third from the left) with the HCA team, including founder Eve (second from left), Education Coordinator Dania (middle front), and some of the 2022 PEP Professionals and international volunteers!
Implementing a sexuality education program in El Porvenir is an important step in ensuring children's human (and sexual) rights and protected and sexual abuse, violence and exploitation are prevented and/or combated. It is also a way of equipping children with the skills to build lasting, trusting relationships, and promoting gender equity, and respect and inclusion for sexual minorities (i.e. people whose sexual identity, orientation or practices differ from the majority of the surrounding society).
HCA would not want to launch sexuality education for pre-adolescents in silo: Talking about sex and sexuality is a taboo for most people and, by extension, talking about sex and sexuality with children tends to be met with even more resistance. It is therefore key that the wider community of El Porvenir is engaged and understands what sexuality education is (and is not!), what HCA’s sex ed program entails, and we can all collaborate in keeping El Porvenir’s children safe.
Who in the wider community are we reaching out to, and how?
When we talk about community engagement, we mean reaching out to specific groups of people involved in HCA’s students’ lives, whether it be in collaboration with HCA’s work, or in parallel. The outreach Laura and Dania conducted in September involved reaching out to:
Parents and Guardians - we held three separate parent sessions at HCA’s different locations in the community, sharing the plans of the program and receiving initial feedback, answering questions and listening to any concerns.
The Municipality of El Porvenir - we met with local authorities, and specifically the “Department of the Woman”, to inform them about both the menstrual education initiative and the childrens’ sexuality education program.
The Bomberos (Firefighters) - we met with them and shared the plans for the program, so they understand its objective of safeguarding the children. An ongoing partner to HCA within the community, the local firefighter department is staffed with a permanent team (unlike the local police department, which experiences programmed staff changes every 6 months). They work within the community to ensure people are safe through fires, floods, and other incidents that may occur, making them a steady and trusted organization ensuring residents’ wellbeing within El Porvenir.
What were the responses of initial outreach?
Dania and Laura’s outreach with different community members was very well received. In fact, the municipality extended their facilities to host the menstrual education event (which was presented in tandem with the sexuality education program), showing similar support to the Bomberos’, who had hosted the first menstrual education event in November 2021! It is important to the program’s success for HCA to have the public support of these organizations, as a gesture of collaboration and agreement on the importance of sexuality education in children’s lives.
The parents and guardians were also in consensus that the plans to implement sexuality education in HCA programming will benefit the students. In the guardian information sessions, parents shared experiences of not knowing how to navigate specific conversations with children, and even sometimes being caught off guard during homework time with “surprise questions”! They highlighted that with such programming, they see HCA both as an organization furthering their children’s safety and wellbeing, and also as a further point of support in fielding their children's questions related to sexuality and reproduction and wellbeing.
Ahead of launching the program next year, we will be continuing the dialogue with the above allies, as well as speaking to teachers in schools, staff at the local health center, and church leaders as/when deemed relevant by the local team.
We will present the outline of the curriculum, and provide more detailed learning outcomes so guardians and other educators involved in HCA’s students’ education are in the loop. We are also exploring the interest and logistics of hosting guardian workshops to equip adults with specific suggestions regarding how to navigate sexuality education conversations with children at home.
As always, check back in for more details!