Girls WANT Options
“I wasn’t really aware of my own reproductive anatomy, didn’t have a good understanding of the variety of contraceptives. The Girls With Options workshops provided me with information and options. I gained insight and knowledge.”
This valuable insight came from Brianna Crooks, a Philly high school graduate who is now pursuing a nursing degree. Brianna and hundreds more teens like her participated in a dynamic sex ed program launched by Children First that provided 700+ teens with judgment-free information about sex, anatomy, contraception, and claiming autonomy over their own bodies.
Philadelphia has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state, and the Black and Hispanic teen pregnancy rates in the city are four and six times higher than their White counterparts. Clearly there is a gap in the system because what’s being used is just not resonating with Black and Hispanic girls and boys. Girls With Options was developed to fill that gap.
Under the direction of Dr. Tawanna Jones Morrison of We.REIGN, Girls With Options worked with Black girls to develop a sex ed curriculum, had Black women teach it to Black and Hispanic students, and solicited feedback so the program could be fine-tuned and replicated. In a webinar today, Children First released the findings of this program in a new report, Tôinformed and Empowered: Girls With Options program on family planning for Black and Hispanic female teens.
One of the most shocking discoveries that came out of the program is that neither boys nor girls take responsibility for birth control. Girls expect boys to have condoms since condoms are easy to get and are thought to be a boy’s responsibility; boys expect girls to be on birth control. But girls don’t have a lot of information on the “what” or “where” of female contraceptives.
A powerful component of the Girls With Options program was helping girls think through their reproductive plan. Nearly every teen girl said they didn’t want to become a mother until turning at least 21 but were stumped when asked how they intended to be sexually active but not become pregnant. And they knew less about long-acting reversable contraceptives like IUDs that could safely delay pregnancy for years.
In today’s discussion on Tôinformed and Empowered: Girls With Options, Dr. Morrison said, “Young people are not having conversations with their partners, parents or pediatricians before having sex. They don’t have a reproductive plan. Don’t want to have kids for 10 years? What’s your plan to prevent pregnancy?”
Marisha Marsh of Access Matters echoed the importance of this approach. “Our youth hear so many messages about sex already, but when you ask them, ‘What’s your plan?’ they have to think about it. It’s important to have conversations about reproductive health but also personal healing, self-esteem, do they have their basic needs met so they can start planning for the future.”
Teen pregnancy is a public health issue and an educational issue. Two-thirds of Philadelphia School District female students who give birth within four years of starting high school drop out of school, even though the district is working hard to accommodate pregnant girls and teen moms.
When we fail to give girls options, we rob them of opportunity. Find out what to do about it by reading our báo cáo, or watching today’s webinar on the Children First Facebook page.