During the past three lessons at Casa Mosqoy in Cusco, the Sacred Valley Health team taught young adults (ages 18-25) about family planning and pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity, and signs, symptoms, and prevention of sexually transmitted infection. Last Wednesday marked the fourth and last class of this series, and we focused on what it means to have a healthy relationship with oneself, friends, and romantic partners.
This last topic is especially important since Peru has a high prevalence of violence against women. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, at least 61% of women in Peru’s rural areas (where many of the Casa Mosqoy youth originate) experience physical and/or sexual abuse. This statistic indicates that at least six of the Mosqoy youth in our audience have been or will be abuse victims, and many more will experience secondary effects of abuse in their families and communities.
Through this lesson, Sarah, Lucy, and I worked to empower these young people through self-confidence and self-esteem exercises and by listening to their ideas about what it means to have a healthy relationship.
We started our lesson by answering questions submitted anonymously during the previous session. One asked, “How do we stand up for someone who is being made fun of for their sexual orientation, expression, or gender identity?” To respond interactively, we discussed a situation where a homosexual person is being criticized for his or her sexual orientation. We argued that complacency is not the answer; we must speak up so that all people’s dignity will be respected. Because we know it can be difficult to speak up, we offered some tools to show the young people how this can be done in a casual yet assertive manner. We also taught “person-positive” terminology, which means that instead of saying “the homosexual”, we would say “the person who is homosexual”, focusing on the fact that the person is a human first and foremost, with a combination of other attributes that make him or her unique.
Each time we have visited Casa Mosqoy, we have administered a brief pretest and posttest in order to get a sense of what the students took away from the lesson. Through evaluating their responses, we can assess the impact of our program there.
Although our analysis is not yet complete, we feel that this collaboration with Casa Mosqoy has been a great success. Participants demonstrated strong engagement with the subject matter, much of which is not discussed at all in the Peruvian education system. Taboos around discussing reproductive health, sexuality, and gender-based violence make it especially important to address these themes. As you may recall from the previous blog posts about our Casa Mosqoy sessions, many students were learning about these topics for the first time.
In a few weeks, we plan to go back to administer a final survey, check in with everyone, and answer the final questions from the anonymous question box.We have truly enjoyed working with the youth at Casa Mosqoy and look forward to continuing our lessons with them and other young people in the future.
Written by SVH Community Coordinator Brooke Bachelor, RN, BSN
Pictures taken by Sarah, Lucy, and Brooke