NGOs ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH TO TACKLE HIV/AIDS
For Mrs. Chinyere Anyiam-Osigwe, former Nigeria Television Authority (NTA gal, one desire that burns in her heart is to gather all street girls, prostitutes -those in brothels and even in tertiary institution campuses, teach them some of skills and even empower them.
Anyiam-Osigwe, Coordinator of Reading For Development Initiative (RFDI), an initiative of the Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation. The mother of three said it grieves her heart that, despite the growing awareness of the Human Immune Virus/Human Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), prostitution still thrives.
Speaking with Daily Sun recently, the ex-broadcaster turned humanitarian lamented that young boys and girls of even secondary school age now treat sex as if it's a way of life. She feels angry that even tertiary institutions have continued to maintain the status of commercial sex zones. She called for more reorientation, maintaining that preaching abstinence alone might just be a wasted effort.
She speaks more on why parents should be involved in teaching their children sexuality issues and why she thinks brothels and nude clubs have continued to flourish.
What is your assessment of NGOs on HIV/AIDS awareness creation?
I really think not enough is being done in this area. There's not enough campaign, not enough awareness is created. So much still needs to be done in this area. I still see people cutting their hair in the traditional way, still do see the mallam doing the local manicure. And it really hurts to see all these because there's no sterilization. I remember last year, when my mum was in hospital and there was this beautiful girl, and every night, she would be screaming out from the hospital. And I went to ask the doctors what was wrong with her and they said she had AIDS.
And there was nothing they could do for her. And she was so bloated. I said to myself, this is an educated young woman; she should have known what to do because she died a few weeks after I met her. The doctors said she was getting the drugs free, after sometime, she just stopped. This is the kind of attitude that I find very hard to believe and accept. You know that your life is at stake and you are not doing anything to help yourself. The drugs are there. They are free and you just don't want to take them. It is risky. I don't understand that.
So, I still feel so much still needs to be done. There are lots of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) around; I quite honestly don't see what most of them are doing any more. I don't see banners, I don't see workshops, I don't see conferences, and I don't see them at the motorparks again talking about prevention and abstinence. And if you go to the net and search these international donors, they claim to be working with this or that organization in Nigeria. Then, you go to that organization, it is possible that they do not even exist. I don't understand what is going on.
Sadly, some of them just take this money, put up one poster or one billboard and that is it. The level of corruption in Nigeria has gone so far that we even deceive ourselves and it is like we are tearing each other in the process. If you take this money from them, you should be able to show what you have done with the money. We should be able to see that the level of awareness is acceptable internationally, unfortunately, this is not there.
As a mother, do you think it is right for ladies to sell their bodies for money?
I definitely frown against it. It upsets me when I see young girls standing at the street corners and roads at night. I'd like to think that they're standing there because of poverty and not because they enjoy being out there. Maybe, they do not have any source of income. But, I'd like to tell them that there are other ways of making money. There are other ways to make ends meet without selling your bodies, without cheapening womanhood and loosing their integrity as women.
If I have my way, I would probably gather all of them and teach them some forms of skills that would make them useful members of the society. Right now, they're risking their lives not just from the killer disease, AIDS, they could get attacked, even get raped or could be used for rituals by evil men. So, they are putting their lives at risk. And I wish for the love of God, they could look for alternative ways of income.
Should parents take part in their children's sex education?
Regrettably, we still have our young boys and girls, even those of secondary school ages still treating sex as if it is a way of life. You go to the university campuses, they are sleeping around. Different types of cars are parked there daily with men coming to check out the girls. It is ridiculous! And I keep wondering if they don't know that HIV/AIDS is real. I guess I am a 21st Century parent. I have an 18 year-old son and every time, I say, sweetheart, don't lie to me, I know you're doing o, you're at that age o, but please use condom. Because he is in the UK. There's no way I can really monitor what he is doing.
For God's sake, as parents, we should be able to drum it into the ears of our children. But, there's really nothing done. Even in the schools, there are no sex education classes. Even in my church, I think we really have an issue and each of us has our own duty cut out for us. We have a lot to do in this regard. We must create more awareness for the young people.
To what extent can parent-child sex education be done?
Even for the adults. I live Ikeja, GRA and it is so sad to know that Issac John Street has been thrown into a commercial sex centre.One can't imagine how young girls stand and loiter on the street waiting for men to pick them up.
I wonder, then, that in these days and age, these girls are still standing out there in their short Bikinis and all that and our men are still picking them up?
For God's sake, are they not afraid? AIDS is a death sentence and hasn't got any cure yet. You can only manage it. And they're not even using the condom. Even as we also stress abstinence, my problem with abstinence is that it is not enough. Mothers should make it a point of duty to monitor their children's conversations. For me, when my kids are asleep, I steal their phones and scroll through them as a strategy to monitor them because I notice that there is no amount of talking that can will be enough. When you're not there, you don't know what they do.
Do you see peer pressure as contributing to this?
Peer pressure out there is real and high, especially in the schools. I'm a staunch Catholic and I believe in abstinence. But for crying out loud, we also have to be down-to-earth. This thing is happening. Our young ones are sleeping with each other. They are experimenting and there's no amount of preaching that would be enough. I remember when my boys were 15 and 16; their father called them and said 'young men, I think we should have a chat on the birds and the bees. But, they fell out laughing and then my son said, dad please! They don't still call it birds and bees.
So, you can see they even know more about sex than their parents. So, who are we deceiving? But what I am saying is that they have to learn it from the right source.
We should not just turn blind eyes to these things. It is happening live and direct. So, we need to tell them that they ought to be careful about it. Abstinence is all-good but when you're not there, what happens? So, if you must do, please, be careful. Nothing in life is worth dying for, except Christ.
Should Brothels and nude clubs be allowed to flourish?
I believe very much in a free market. At the same time, I believe such things should be regulated. No child under 21 should be allowed into such places. And if you must go in, you are going in at your own risk. You should be fully aware of the consequences of what you are going into, why you are there, what you want to achieve by going to such places and be responsible for the consequences of your actions. So, such places do have the right to exist but they should be regulated. There should be laws and policies guiding such places.
Should sex education be made part of school curricula?
Definitely, it should start from primary school because our children today are very exposed. Our children today, watch more television than we did during our days. For our children today, there are more newspapers, magazines and books out there. So there's a lot of information out there like the Internet and the mobile phones. Internet facility is available on mobile phones and there is a lot of information out there. And I think the children should be educated as early as possible and appropriately too. They should take a decision at an early age on what to do and what not to do as well as how to handle it. If it is abstinence, fine. If you can abstain from sex, wonderful. But if you can't, then, teach them to take care of themselves.