Peer Education is considered one of the tools available to reach young people with information and skills.
The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) intends to address sexual reproductive health issues in Jamaica by using a ‘peer influence’ approach, to train young people in this matter.
The WCFJ through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) hosted two residential Peer Educator Workshops in July. The targeted parishes were Clarendon and Manchester.
Forty-six males, 17-25 years who are youth leaders or potential leaders from civic groups and community based organizations were trained as Peer Educators.
“We realise that in the regular school system, the guidance counsellors are bogged down with other duties and… will not have enough time to be with each student on a one-to-one basis,” Charmaine Johnson, project co-ordinator explained.
Johnson also argued that the move will reduce the number of teen pregnancies.
“We figured that if we train other students who are role models, then they could assist the guidance counsellors. And when they do this, it will reduce the number of pregnancies because they would then be informed about their sexual and reproductive health,” she said.
The workshop, which will end on July 18, began on Monday. This is the 12th year that the Women’s Centre has offered the course.
Participating students were selected by their schools’ guidance counsellors, with whom they will work once training has been completed.
The issues being discussed at the ongoing workshop include:
- principles and practices of peer counselling,
- etiquette and grooming,
- sexually transmitted infections,
- values and attitudes,
- drug abuse,
- female and male reproduction,
- methods of contraception and child abuse.
“We take them here when they are pregnant and after they’ve had their babies, we send them back into the regular school system,” Johnson said.
But sometimes, Johnson said, some of the young mothers get pregnant a second time — requiring yet more help from the centre.
“The second-pregnancy rate is less than two per cent,” she stressed, “but most times it’s due to a contraceptive failure, because we recommend that the girls go on a contraceptive method before returning to school”.
The centre also provides counselling for the young fathers of the teens’ babies, as well as other adolescent males who may need help.
“What happens is that we offer remedial education, counselling and skills training, as we recognise that this is one of our preventative measures,” Johnson explained.
Last year, the programme assisted 762 young men.