Luis Miguel Bermúdez first began teaching sex education at one of Colombia’s biggest public schools in 2010. Located in the city of Bogotá, the school had some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country at the time—and Colombia has one of the highest rates in Latin America.
To tackle this problem, Bermúdez took a different stance from the religious-based teachings that Colombian schools typically provide. He worked with parents, teachers, council officials and—most importantly—students to create a sex ed program that was built around an open attitude toward sexuality. The course covers topics like sexual diversity, human rights and desire.
Now, just over five years after the program started, the school’s pregnancy rate has gone from around 70 per year to zero!
Perhaps the class was a great success because students could talk in a safe space about sexuality, LGBTQ rights and sex. Although Colombian law states that girls age 14 and older can seek sexual health advice without parental consent, girls in the class said they were shunned and rejected when they sought reliable information from professionals.
Success like this has not been seen anywhere else in Bogotá, but Bermúdez is determined to help bring the program to the rest of Colombia and the world. We can be hopeful that rather than scaring teenagers, more educators across the globe will take the approach that Bermúdez did when teaching teens about sexual health.
When my friend Jenna* called me crying, terrified she was pregnant at sixteen, I knew I had to get someone else to help her because I was definitely not qualified to handle this.
In the chaos of it all, I made what could have been a catastrophic error. I absent-mindedly Googled the Planned Parenthood texting hotline and clicked the very first link that popped up.
Later, I realized it was a “priority ad”; someone had paid for it to be the first thing on the search page as a way to attract desperate young girls like Jenna, who wouldn’t have the wherewithal to vet their sources first.
So when Jenna sent me screenshots of the conversation between her and a “pregnancy crisis counselor,” I was completely blindsided by the type of “unbiased support” they provided.
Take a moment to calm down, the counselor said. Think about your baby, a little heartbeat in your belly. You wouldn’t want to kill your baby, would you?
In my rush to help Jenna, I had accidentally directed her to a “crisis pregnancy center.” Also known as CPCs, these “clinics” are in actuality fronts for anti-choice organizations, marketing themselves as legitimate medical facilities. CPCs will often set up shop near established Planned Parenthoods or reproductive health centers, and offer things like free pregnancy tests to lure people in. But once inside, CPCs are notorious for spreading misinformation and using anti-choice scare tactics to frighten young girls into making a decision that may not be right for them.
That’s why dozens of organizations from across the country are joining the movement to promote awareness of CPCs. From October 23rd to 28th, over 40 organizations will be participating in a week of action to insist on straightforward, accurate reproductive health care.
Join the conversation with #ExposeFakeClinics and learn what you can do to expose fake clinics. Together, we can fight for a world where women will be empowered to make the reproductive choices that are right for them.
*Jenna is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of a teenager who lives in Oklahoma.
We all have our phones on us most of the day, and we all use at least five apps a day, so why not add a few great sexual health apps?
Recently, Answer—the organization that publishes Sex, Etc.—published a report in which they asked teens to use and review apps and other web-based digital tools related to sexual health. The report looks at what is working in the world of sexual health digital tools and recommends how organizations in the field of sexual and reproductive health can do an even better job of using technology to provide us with accurate sexual health info.
Here are four apps that received all-around high praise!
Bedsider’s Birth Control Reminders
This is an app for people like me who always need a reminder to take their birth control. The cool thing about this app is that each day you get to learn a weird fact, get a beautiful quote or some new reading material, all while being reminded about your birth control of choice. Some of my favorites have been a link to a women’s literature list, the quote “There is a moon, that rests in the quiet corners of a lover’s lips” and insight into Cleopatra’s signature lipstick.
Circle of 6
I personally had all of my friends download this app. Circle of 6 allows you to keep in contact with your friends and family anytime: while you’re out and alone, feeling uncomfortable at a party or not feeling safe while on a date, for example. You can send a text to your “circle” with the press of a button, asking them to “Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.” You can also easily send texts like “I’m home safe” and “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely” with your location. Circle of 6 makes it that much easier to have the support and help of your family and friends when you need it most.
Eve is not your normal period tracker app; it’s actually a lot more. Just like other period trackers, there are reminders when your period should start and a log to track all of your symptoms. But it also has a bunch of articles, quizzes and an active community you can participate in. Here you can talk to other people about their periods and share advice and tips to get through your period. It might be weird to call a period tracker app “fun,” but Eve is definitely a fun app to have on your phone.
Planned Parenthood Chat/Text
While Planned Parenthood Chat/Text isn’t an app, it is a great digital tool that you can access on your phone. Go to the Planned Parenthood website and click the “Chat Now” button. Through the chat, you can have your sexual questions answered by a professional. This tool is beyond valuable and something that you should use if you ever have a question about your sexual health and need a quick answer.
I hope that these apps make it onto your phone to stay. Are there other sexual health apps or digital tools that you love? Leave a comment below.
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