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Not as God Intended

Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights program graduates show off their certificates.
Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights program graduates show off their certificates.

COVID-19 has created an uptick in gender-based violence that has made it more obvious than ever before that too often women and girls around the world are not valued as they should be as God’s image bearers. Worse, they often endure abuse simply because “that’s the way it has always been.” In many communities where World Renew works, young girls do not have a safe space to discuss the natural development of their bodies or what kind of physical attention is unacceptable. 

World Renew is committed to implementing programs that focus on building healthy relationships. Protecting Adolescent Health and Rights is one program that offers young people in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, opportunities to learn about positive relationships with friends, relatives, community members, and romantic partners. Geared toward out-of-school tweens and teens, the program also offers a safe space for young men and women to learn about proper hygiene, protecting their health, abstinence before marriage, and recognizing and ending cycles of abuse. 

In August of 2021, there was a graduation ceremony for participants who completed the one-year curriculum. World Renew’s program assistant Gédéon Weber interviewed the female graduates and was happy to hear that it wasn’t only the adolescents who benefited from the program. 

Amy, 18, reflected on how the program helped to improve her relationship with her mother. “The program is important and … has helped us get closer to our parents,” she said. “I did not communicate with my mother (but) I am communicating with her now.” 

Beyond helping young people build healthy relationships, the program also helps them recognize behaviors that are unacceptable and teaches them not to simply dismiss these behaviors as “the way it has always been.” Amy shared, “Before, when I would be sexually harassed, I didn't tell anyone. But now I am informing my mother.”

Topics that otherwise would have been considered taboo are now discussed openly. One mother, Mrs. Fofana, said, “When I heard my daughter talk about her (monthly) cycle, I asked her where she learned it, and she told me, ‘In the sessions.’ I am very happy with this program because a lot of parents are embarrassed to talk about sexuality with their children. My daughter taught me a lot and encouraged me in the education of my (other) children.” 

With God’s grace, this graduating class and their parents will all come to a place of understanding that “the way it has always been” is not necessarily the way God intended.

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