By Dr. Hussain Abidi – M.B.B.S; CRCP; MBA- Health Management
Parents, teachers, mentors and other societal contributors hold key responsibility in guiding, coaching and directing life. However in our conservative society, discussion of reproductive health and awareness is still considered a taboo. The result is high cases of reproductive and associated health problems and complications, leading to morbidity and mortality in extreme cases. The question is, do we have any healthy means or channels to educate our younger generations about these concerns?
Children learn best at educational institutes and through social interactions. International schooling systems are actively engaged in creating health and education interfaces to create awareness about adult health among children. The fact of the matter is that upon entering puberty, young girls face more problems in accessing health care than boys in Pakistan. As medical professionals, regardless of the field of specialization, it is our responsibility to provide these patients with guidance or refer to the right person for such within legal and ethical limits.
The same situation in educational institutes is much different in Pakistan. Pakistan has carried out noteworthy steps courtesy of NGOs to increase health awareness among adolescents. The key role has been to abolish any misguided myths within children’s minds. Barriers such as cultural norms, taboos, shyness and religious concerns prevent such open discussions between parents and children.
Many health complications can arise if these matters are not addressed properly. When not found a reliable and accurate resource of information, children may end up isolating themselves and closed up to such discussions. Resorting to unhealthy means may take place, which may damage the child’s self esteem and concepts of intimacy. These can directly result in poor quality of marriages, poor reproductive health, multiple complications during pregnancy, depression and anxiety. Alongside, the moral and social norms that the society was trying to maintain in essence is lost in the process.
The school systems can help foster self esteem among children at this crucial time. The children must be taught to protect themselves from possible sexual abuse from those close to him. This is particularly true in case of females, who because of timidness, shyness and fear of being reprimanded unjustly refrain from expressing these concerns. International health protocols instruct healthcare providers to watch out for signs of abuse among children and report to authorities should they observe such signs and symptoms.
Education Ministry needs to take a proactive role with healthcare systems and attempt vigorous actions like revising academics in context of reproductive and sexual awareness and ensuring strict ban on easily accessible adult material for children under the age of puberty.
These measures could help children become aware of moral and ethical practices and lifestyles through reproductive education. The children will understand the true forms of intimacy and relationship building, self esteem and self confidence. They should be told the rights and wrongs of life before they fall into the preventable dark, sinful and unethical way of life. Parents, teachers and healthcare providers need to focus on children’s constructive growth by keeping an open and honest channel of communication. Creating a culture of trust will only strengthen the values of our society and will encourage better bonding between children and adult members of the society.