Students, activists talk about sexual and reproductive health

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | 11:28 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two women on Wednesday night at MU shared their experiences of advocating for better sexual and reproductive health practices.

About 40 students gathered to hear Fadekemi Akinfaderin from Nigeria and Maxsalia Salmon from Jamaica talk about working for youth organizations, trying to distribute condoms outside schools and encouraging their societies to teach more comprehensive sex education.

They discussed issues related to sexual health, such as the the lack of sex education for youth, especially in developing countries; how early marriages and unplanned pregnancy hurt young women; and how viewpoints about sex and pregnancy are changing.

"It took forever for Nigeria to bring sex education to school," Akinfaderin said. Talking about sex and distributing contraceptives in schools is culturally unacceptable, she said. For example, school textbooks say "body abuse" instead of "sexual abuse," she said.  

"The old world meets the new world," said Teresa Klassen, a freshman MU journalism student. The old-world ideas of trust and abstinence clash with the new-world ideas that teens are going to have sex, she said.

Even though the federal legal marriage age in Nigeria is 18, some parents force their daughters to get married earlier so husbands will pay for education, though in many cases they don't, Akinfaderin said.Many of those women are socially isolated, she said.

Akinfaderin and Salmon will lobby Sen. Kit Bond on Thursday to gain his support for the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 and for international family planning. They asked students at the event to write postcards to show support for the lobbying campaigns.

The act would change U.S. foreign aid policy to a rights-based approach concerning sexual and reproductive health, according to a handout from the event. The event was organized by Advocates for Youth, Americans for Informed Democracy, American Association of Women MU Affiliate, MU Feminist Student Union and BODYTALK.

Akinfaderin and Salmon will also lobby for an appropriation in the U.S fiscal year 2011 budget of at least $1 billion for international family planning, which would increase young people's access to family planning services, the release said.

"The U.S. is one of the largest contributors to international development, especially in developing countries, " Akinfaderin said. We want to get students like those at MU to influence foreign policy and aid, she said.

Some students from the sponsoring organizations plan to lobby on Thursday as well.

"It is overwhelming to hear about the tens of thousands of women who die each year from pregnancy," said Nicholas Totten, a senior MU German major. "It's positive that we have activists from abroad here to help us lobby tomorrow."

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Cassie Gardener April 14, 2010 | 4:33 a.m.

Thank you for this amazing article about supporting international youth's sexual and reproductive health and rights! The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010 will be transformative to more comprehensively address youth health and livelihoods, especially in countries where rapid population growth exacerbates poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education and health care. It's so critical to elevate youth voices as leaders for these issues, at your university and around the world! As a former Sierra Club organizer for these issues,, I'm currently volunteering for similar programs in Ethiopia,, and I can tell you that these programs are cost-effective and need more support! Keep up the great work!

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