September 16, 2015

Power, protection, and pleasure with female condoms

Written by Nina Yengo, Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Officer, Pathfinder International

They huddled around the table, with their matching school uniform of maroon pants and white tops. Some were on their tiptoes, heads bobbing up and down trying to get a good look. Others were crouched down so they could see between the girls in front of them. Two in the back whispered to each other, curious about the demonstration they were seeing. 

“Run your fingers down the package to spread the lubrication. Now squeeze the inner ring forming an ‘8’—that’s the part you insert first,” said a young woman at the center of the semi-circle. 

I couldn’t even see her from where I stood behind the crowd, but I heard her voice as she walked the group of high school girls through the process of inserting a female condom. I stood on my tiptoes to see above the row of heads and watched the leader in action. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of boys sheepishly looking on. 

This was one of many demonstrations like it at high schools in and around Mozambique’s capital city of Maputo. They’re made possible thanks to Pathfinder International—and funding from Oxfam and the Female Health Company. More than 60 trained activists travel to a list of area high schools, organizing regular female condom demonstrations. 

They typically take place during the lunch hour, or a prescribed break time during the school day.

As students pass by, they can stop and pick up female condoms available at no cost. They can stay and watch a demonstration of how to insert one using penis and vagina models. They can ask questions to the trained leaders—any question related to their sexual health. They can even test their own knowledge by leading a female condom insertion demonstration for their classmates. 

Female and male students are both welcome at the table.

These students are lucky to have such demonstrations—and I’m lucky to see them happening so often. It means more adolescents are hearing about sex in a positive way. They’re learning about contraception, about sexually transmitted diseases, and they’re asking questions—all in an environment where this kind of conversation is encouraged. 

It’s happening in the open, at their school! 

Now young women can feel free to discuss their doubts, fears, and wishes regarding their sexual and reproductive health. And they know that they can be in control of their own protection.

At these demonstrations, it becomes a conversation about so much more than female condoms. And as Pathfinder’s Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Officer, I smile every time. I love seeing more women embrace the power of the female condom—taking their pleasure and protection into their own hands!