‘How can you be asking us to place condoms in the university?’ the screeching voice of my dean of students still lingers in my head. ‘We are Catholics in word and deed’.
In my second month as a student leader in a catholic institution of higher learning, I had been faced with four first year ladies who were worried that they were pregnant. You know, every time freshmen come to campus, the older folks do ‘gold rush’ (men in senior years aiming to get new girlfriends) *sic*.
The contraceptive conversation was one that the institution had not gotten round to discussing, let alone allowing. As a catholic, by faith…but with a plan, I couldn’t understand why a personal matter like having sex, and using protection, was given such negative prominence by my faith. I also didn’t get why a whole institution (university for that matter), a cohort expected to birth liberal thinkers, originators of new knowledge and acceptors of diverse views and stand points, had such archaic values around contraception.
Student leaders in universities face more than they bargain for when campaigning, here I was thinking as a student leader all I would do is deal with students and their academic needs (and once in a while… tend to hostel and food dramas). My friend! I found myself dealing with an issue I wasn’t well equipped to handle- how to ensure our comrades had responsible sex and protected themselves from pregnancies, STIs and HIV.
University students generally have very high libido; the stories we got every Monday morning of weekend escapades and the fact that the nearest chemist ran out of emergency pills every weekend is a testimony to this. My concern was not the amount of sex we had; heck that’s our choice; and am a great respecter of choice.
The horror in the face of those four first year students startled me; one, who incidentally was from the Akorino faith couldn’t fathom the thought of her being pregnant? What would she go and tell her parents? The other girl, a Maasai lady from deep Narok, the first girl to come to university from their village couldn’t imagine herself pregnant; she carried the communities hope and expectation of a girl child who has successfully fought the tendons of culture to rest at the echelons of success in order to give hope to other girls. She was probably the only one from a whole village who made it to university. Now here she was, hopeless and ashen at the thought of that hope dimmed a little too prematurely.
Those faces and the fear that gripped those ladies introduced me to the world of SRH/FP advocacy; the dejected and blank looks that they gave me. Their world had literary come to a stop and had awakened in me a fire to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another lady or man if I could help it!
In my next story, I take you through the journey of walking to the Dean’s office (A catholic priest for that matter) and the fired conversation that ensued…. Stay tuned!