Around the world kids have their sex education in different ways. In the UK, we had classes starting in primary school (where I was completely shocked at seeing a baby being born) and going into secondary school. Methods of learning vary across Africa, with some young people gaining good knowledge and some gaining none at all and having to rely on the stories from their friends. I remember during my time in a small Ghanaian village, it was kind of a taboo to discuss sex, so it was very hard for the youth to gain information from their parents or elders.
In that village, it was not uncommon for girl in their early teens to have babies, putting their education on hold, in some cases permanently. With a little support and education, these girls could have gone through school and made a difference in a village that is striving for success. I was always dismayed that some men were able to take advantage of these girls, by first withholding knowledge from them, and secondly abusing their positions within the community. So, where can these kids get access to information, if they can’t get it from talking to family or in schools.
Technology has the answer. Chatbots have been a big topic in the marketing world over the past couple of years. They are becoming easier to make and artificial intelligence is enabling them to learn on the go. (Although not perfectly, yet) Companies are using them to engage with their customers, sell products and offer support. Now, a team of 6 students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology have found a more useful and life changing use for their chatbot.
Named SophieBot, it has been fed with information on sexuality and sexual health, and is able to give this information to users via Facebook, Telegram, Messenger and Twitter, in regular text chats, or even voice chat. The system includes anonymous forums, which enables users to ask the community any questions they may have, if the Sophie is not able to answer. This is a great idea to enable people of all ages, especially youngsters, access information that could be life changing. As well as offering advice regarding contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases, Sophie also deals with sensitive topics such as rape. Users are given exact instructions of what to do following an attack, including how to deal with the police and what to do with their clothes. (Try it out here)
Another issue that Africa has in this area is with abortions. Firstly, in much of the continent it is not legal to have an abortion unless it is to save the life of the mother. Because of this, many women go to blackmarket practices, or take home remedies, leading to some horrific stories. Many of you may remember the under cover documentary of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the incredible Ghanaian journalist, who uncovered some appalling and disgusting abortion practices at a back street clinic. (Watch the link at your own risk, it really is horrific)
If women do have an abortion, it is very important that they receive aftercare, so there are no complications. Pathfinder is an app, developed in Tanzania, that focusses on exactly this issue. The app is a 23 point check list to enable doctors and nurses to improve post abortion care. Pathfinder has partnered with local government and teams of mentors and to give advice in health centres and doctors surgeries, on post abortion care, as well as family planning and contraceptive methods.
The app with the checklist provides an easy way for mentors to check whether doctors and nurses are following the correct procedures and then give any recommendations. Mentors make quarterly visits to clinics to maintain regular contact and make sure practitioners use up to date methods. This should improve the level of care provided and make the lives of many women much easier after going through the difficult and sometimes traumatic period after an abortion.
Technology, innovation and health care run hand in hand. The standard of life of many in Africa that have not had easy access to health care has been dramatically increased. Now, new methods of sharing information about sexual health and abortion are available to more and more citizens. If you know of any other sexual health, or general health innovations or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or email, and please also share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.
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