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Sex education shouldn’t start when your child begins menstruating

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There are unique women who wear many hats in different industries. They use their passion and skill set as tools for development and change; Adebimpe Adebara is one of those women. She is a creative designer (Graphics and UI/UX designs), sexual and reproductive health coach, girl child advocate and a freelance photographer. Being a victim of child molestation, she founded Piece of My Heart Foundation where she leads a team of volunteers in educating, sensitising children and teenagers on sex education to prevent abuse. She is a Skillz girl coach at Youth empowerment and development initiative where she educates adolescent girls about their sexual and reproductive health. She’s a global youth ambassador at Their World, Lagos State Youth Ambassador and Girl Impact Ambassador. Adebimpe is a graduate of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. Trained child advocate by Christiana Faith Foundation and Laura Kid’s Foundation U.S.A, she’s an alumna of Lagos Business School (Leadership and Non-profit Management). She is interested in meaningful youth participation and engagement and gender related issues. She shares her inspiring story with Esther Ijewere in this exclusive interview.

Childhood Influence
My childhood is what influenced my decision to educate people about sexual and reproductive health issues and gender-based violence prevention.

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Growing up, my parents died when I was just 7, having to move from one relative to the other; my uncle molested me. He will make me play with their genitals until he gets satisfied. This went on for months and nobody suspected. Thankfully, I moved away from their house and my mum’s immediate sister who happens to take care of me like her own, adopted me.
 
At the age of 13, we lived in a tenement building known as ‘face me I face you.’ Two of my neighbours got pregnant for a guy who was also our neighbour. I watched these two girls drop out of school and became mothers as a child; it was traumatic for me.
 
After this incident, I started getting flashes of my own abuse and suddenly, I started attracting people who attempted rape from close people; it didn’t happen, but the fear stayed with me.
 
This fueled my passion and I felt if people were aware and orientated, parents can also educate their children to make informed sexual and relationship decisions without violence or abuse. Most times, the abusers are trusted people. 

Inspiration behind Piece of My Heart Foundation
I knew I had an assignment, but I really didn’t know what it was; I pray to God about it. Soon, I started getting flashes of what happened to me as a Child and how God wanted me to turn my pain to purpose. I felt led to start a Piece of My Heart Foundation, though I was not sure what NGO was and how it was run at that time. I just wanted to make a difference in my community, so I started the organisation.

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The Journey so far
The journey has been awesome and challenging at the same time. The journey has helped me to discover a lot about myself; it has helped me to learn skills I never thought I could learn. The journey has brought me profitable relationships and realistic exposures. So many times, I feel like giving up on the journey because of so many rejections I get. I have grown a thick skin and rejection got nothing on me, maybe a little thing. I have made a lot of mistakes running the organisation, but I learn from my mistakes. I am grateful to God I started.

Being A Creative Designer, And Using It To Amplify My Passion For Advocacy 
As a creative designer, my skill has helped my work a lot. It has helped amplify my work, because most times I use the funds I get from my work to run the organisation. Sometimes, I use my skill to preserve relationships. I volunteer to do designs for many people to help them amplify their works too. I strongly believe that supporting other people is a great way to keep relationships.

Nigerians And Their Understanding Of Sexual And Reproductive Health
I think a large percentage of Nigerians are not well informed on issues affecting women and the girl child because most people tend to silence women in advocacy. Everyday, women and girls are still faced with lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, domestic violence, unequal pay for equal work, lack of quality education and so many other issues.

If I Had An Audience With The President To Discuss Work
Mr. President Sir, in about two years of being at the frontline, working closely with stakeholders in rural communities to advocate for women and girls reaching close to over 10,000 people online and offline, I believe that not enough work is being done to protect the rights of women and girls in our society. I would like the government to consider partnering with CSOs and NGOs to reach the grassroots. I would like the president to amplify our voices by giving women equal representation in government, empowering women and girls to avoid violence, and implementing laws that criminalise GBV. We have this law, why aren’t they being implemented? We will like the president to fund organisations working on intervention and to restructure our crisis management system; the system is too cumbersome.

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Mr. President Sir, comprehensive sex education should be part of the curriculum starting from primary school in other to help our children make informed decisions.

Challenges Of My Work
One of the personal challenges is trying to balance my career (product design) with my NGO work; thank God for amazing team members. Many people don’t want to fund prevention intervention and our own belief is that prevention is better than rehabilitation. We are also faced with the challenge of space for training. One of our aims is to raise a lot of advocates who can represent us in their communities.

Three Women Who Inspire You To Be Better And Why
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, I love the fact that she is a woman breaking boundaries. She inspires me with her love for God and humanity. Anthonia Ojenagbon, she is a survivor of sexual abuse and she is giving other people a chance to be heard. She inspires me so much because of her resilience and her fight for SGBV. Esther Ijewere, a woman with a heart of Gold, she inspires me with her selflessness, humility and doggedness.

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Key Nuggets On Child Safety & Sexual Reproductive Health
Child safety is everybody’s responsibility, especially the parent. As parents, you cannot always be everywhere with your children, but when you give them comprehensive sex education, you can be sure that they will make informed choices.
 
Sex education should not start when your child begins menstruating; it has to start right from the time your child starts speaking, both the boys and the girls.
 
Many people mistake sex education for teaching about sex. Sexual and reproductive health education is not just how not to get pregnant. It’s about body safety, self esteem, puberty, gender roles, contraceptives use etc.
 
Education about sex is not a one-off conversation; it has to be consistent and age appropriate. Use Google to learn what age is appropriate for your child and filter it with your family value.

Being A Woman of Rubies
I’m a woman of rubies because I am a woman favored and chosen to turn my pain into power. I never allowed my background to put my back on the ground. I’m proud of the woman I have become.

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