Photo courtesy of Iyamail.

CAMEROON: I Wish My Mother Had Taught Me about Sex

Iyamail would have made different choices as a teen had she known more about sex. Now she’s determined to help girls today avoid her missteps.

I remember having this subtle fear that I had done something wrong.

When I was 14 years old, I traveled to Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon, to visit my Aunt Grace and her family. A few weeks into my holiday I felt some cramps in my lower stomach and later discovered a dash of blood on my panties. I told my cousins about it, and I remember having this subtle fear that I had done something wrong. I also feared I had just completely stepped out of my childhood.

My cousins told me to tell their mum about it. Aunt Grace called me into the bedroom, and while she prepared a makeshift sanitary pad for me, she gave me the only advice I have ever received about sex from a mother: “If you have sex with a boy, you will get pregnant.”

At the time I didn't have to worry about getting pregnant because I had no boyfriend and no intention of having one. Better still, the blood did not show up again for the next four months. However, three years later at age 17 I started living on my own on the university campus and soon had a boyfriend. Still my entire sex education consisted of that one sentence from Aunt Grace.

To date I have never had a genuine, heartfelt talk about sex with a competent female authority.

I appreciate my mum for the thousands of things she did wonderfully, but I wish sex had been that one extra thing she had educated me about.

I know that she, as a mother of five girl children and one boy child, has had at least some education about sex, even if it is just from the school of hard knocks and lessons learned.

Why do parents fear opening up and talking to their kids about sex?

I wish my mother had told me that I could get STDs or become pregnant from unprotected sex, and that being in an isolated place with a member of the opposite sex may tempt me to indulge in sex?

I wish she had told me how my menstrual cycle works.

I wish she had explained to me that those kids I used to envy because they had boyfriends at an early age were not the ones to look up to.

I wish she had told me that if I choose to have sex it should be with someone who respects me. Or to just wait to have sex with my husband when I am married.

I wish she had explained to me what it looks like when a man respects a woman.

I wish she had told me that I am beautiful and validated me so I wouldn't go looking for validation from boys who may themselves be misinformed about sex and under the control of raging hormones.

I wish, for the sake of my self-preservation, she had taught me about methods of contraception, including abstinence, and their advantages and disadvantages.

But she did not. Instead, I learned this information in fragmented pieces over the years and through the consequences of my actions. 

I believe that if my mother (or any maternal figure I looked up to) had shown me the right path through puberty, instead of letting me stumble in the dark, I would have made different decisions in my teenage and young adult years. 

I was impressionable at the age of 14; her words would have guided me. Such a conversation would have encouraged me to come boldly to my mum with any concerns about sex, and this could have made our relationship a thousand times richer at that time. 

I am not saying I could have been a better woman than I am now, but I could have had a more virtuous past. I don't blame my actions totally on the lack of sexual guidance, but with it I could have been prouder of myself and my parents could have enjoyed the benefits of their daughter making sexually empowered choices. 

Instead, with my lack of knowledge, I repetitively swerved toward the dark path, causing my mother more than a few sleepless nights and the kind of anguish only a mother can feel.

One time I left home when I was about 21, a graduate without a job, and angry with the world. I left with just my phone and some cash and went to live at my boyfriend’s place. I turned my phone off to avoid the calls from home. I thought my boyfriend was my savior. He promised to make my life better in exactly all the ways I wanted, but his promises yielded zero results and a lot of tears. My mum had her church members carry on chain prayers for me until I returned home. 

I am not proud of many of the choices I made then, but I know better now, so I do better.

I am not yet a mother, but when I am I plan to be a light to my children. I will teach them what I have learned about what is right in life so they do not have to learn it the hard way like I did, through experience.

I am also on a mission to empower pre-teens and teens, especially girls, with sexual information that will help them make better decisions about sex. I make it a point to talk to all the teens I know because most of them are still in the dark about sex, just like I was.

Currently I am writing an online teen self-evaluation quiz designed to provide teens with advice on sex and other issues based on the answers they provide. I plan to complete this quiz in the next month, and launch it soon after.

Additionally, I blog about my views and experiences on my website in order to reach out to parents with kids aged 9 to 14. I encourage them to talk genuinely to their children about sex.

Finally, I am working on an e-book for teens that communicates knowledge about sex from a godly and big sister-like perspective.

These are initiatives I am passionate about, because I know that a needlepoint shift in direction today is worth a grand arc of change in the future.

STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

How to Get Involved

You can support Iyamail’s work by sharing her e-book and online quiz with teens in your community. Get in touch with Iyamail in the comments section below, or message her directly through her World Pulse profile, to receive these resources once she has completed them!

Story Awards: Moments of Hope 33Send Me Love

Comments

Iyamail thank you for this piece of reminder to parents of our community. They should talk their responsibility as first teachers in sexual and reproductive health rights education

Sally Maforchi Mboumien

Founder/Coordinator COMAGEND Cameroon

Facebook Page: common action for Gender Development

www.comagend.org

A brilliant piece you got there. However this issue of discussing sex with your kids is not as easy as the eyes may see it. Our cultural and religious background treat such subjects as taboo. I  am  happy that you are part of the initiative to break the silence.  Keep it up

Dear Iyamail

Growing up I had a privilege when the Always(sanitary company) team visited my school and really shared a lot with us about menstruation and sexuality. Just once. But as teens and preteens transition they need a lot of guidance. As someone who works with teens I applaud your work.

 I look forward  to the reading to your e-book.

Our experiences both good and bad are enable embrace our imperfections and also help inspire and support others. Thank you for turning your experience to a good cause.

Keep inspiring and changing lives

 

Immah

Thank you Immah.

Like you noted, I am thankful for everything, both the good and the bad experiences because the lessons learned serve as a guide to another who might be about to fall into that pit.

We all have these lessons, I also want to inspire whoever knows better to help others who don't. All of us can be mentors, especially to teens and preteens.

Thank u!

 

I feel the same, and also feel that men should be just as educated. Eliminating stigma surrounding periods, STDs/knowledge of sexual health, and teaching children/teens about consent can only benefit everyone.

Yes, Emmatime!

Pre-teens and teenagers at an age where they can quickly absorb ideas and form life principles, be they male or female. Harnessing the opportunity to reach them in a safe and trustworthy manner about ALL of sex ed is indispensable to the quality of the decisions they take in the future.

Dear Iyamailc,

You just reminded me that I need to start sitting my girls now to talk about their sexual and reproductive rights. I am now more eager than before to do so. Thank you so much for the timely reminder. Continue the good work.

God bless you

Nakinti Besumbu, Cameroon.

 

Nakinti B. Nofuru

2013 VOF

Founder/CEO Rescue Women - Cameroon (REWOCAM)

nakintin@yahoo.com or rescuewomen@yahoo.com

 

Thank you Nakinti. I also follow your work, please do so and give us the updates. I am glad to motivate you. 

Don't be surprised if I solicit advice from you anytime.

Iya

Hello Iya,

I would love to have you as a motivational speaker at one of my sessions with the youths I work with in my organisation's Share The Love programs. Sending you updates on how to connect right now.

Emily Miki

Founder/CEO, Denis Miki Foundation

Mandela Washington Fellow 2017

World Pulse VOF Leader

Runner Up Queen Young Leader 2017

Associate Fellow of The Royal Commonwealth Society

My dear Iyamail, I appreciate this piece of work about parental influence on sex  education. Mostly parents believe educating their children particularly the girl child about sex is sending them out for sex. There is more about sex education to be done by parents. Lets keep raising their awareness in our various areas to change mentality.

Dear Tebi Honorine, thanks to you for this perspective. In general, girls know right and wrong, but giving them knowledge on sex which is an important aspect of life can only raise their awareness on this issue. Parents need to take the bull by the horns and add sex education to the upbringing of the kids while trusting that their kids will make good decisions with better information and not just allow everything to chance. 

Iya 

I am reading your story and it made me cry because I know you are not sharing your story only you are speaking for millions of girls and women around the world, who had to face a lot of difficulties because they do not have information on sex, men misuse them and mothers think they will commit a sin if they will tell their daughters about it, I can hear your heart speaking on this most important topic .thank you very much 

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014

Thanks for sharing my dear sister. You are surely doing a great job. As mothers and women we need to be open with our children now at an early age because they grow so fast and they are more exposed than before. Your experience will change many young lives for sure. 

Stay blessed

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi Head of Legal and Advocacy Centre for Batwa Minorities a.kiddu@gmail.com cfmlegal@gmail.com Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

Thank you, Mrs. Anita

I am grateful for this encouragement. I plan to use my energies to let the girls who need my message hear me and be influenced to make better choices.

Iya

"A needlepoint shift in direction today is worth a grand arc of change in the future."

Dear Iyamail,

I really enjoyed your post. I think you're so right that real, non-judgmental, informative sex education for puberty aged girls/teens (and boys) is so helpful and leads to better choices. Taking the mystery out of sex and breaking the taboo is important. This problem is widespread all over the world. I think it's so cool the way you learned from your own experiences and are doing so many things to try to improve things for teenagers now. Your work and attitude are really inspiring.

Thank you for sharing.

All my best wishes,

Julia

Thank you, Julia, for your encouragement. I plan to help girls avoid the pitfalls of the unconscious and not well thought out sexual behaviour. I have just completed my book for this purpose called Asha's Letter. Will be releasing it to the world soon. You guys are a tremendous support!

I wish I knew about sex at early age too I was 13 when I first had sex with a guy that I thought love me he basically use and pretend to love me at first I thought I experience love but it wasn't it was lust if I could go back undo my actions I would I tell young girls to wait for somebody who really love u and care for u or wait on marriage is too many diseases today is better to wait.

Dear Jenny, I totally understand where you are coming from. The ignorance we feel and the need to be validated as beautiful and wanted at that age is overwhelming. I am sorry you had to go through that so early. But hey, what doesn't break us builds us!

My book, Asha's Letter: Sex education for teen girls will be released soon. Counting on your support in getting the word out there to the young girls who need to avoid these pitfalls.

Sending you love,

Iya

Dear Iyamail,

Beautiful story and beautiful ending. You seem to have triumphed even through your earlier stages  of limited sexual information. You are such an inspiration to young people and playing the role of mother to many teenagers who can access your blogs. Great work , keep up!

LVB

Dear Lillian, thanks for the encouragement. Necessity is laid upon me. If I do not use my experience to help others that will mean I have been defeated by it and that is not going to happen.

My book Asha's Letter: Sex education for teen girls will be released soon to the world. Will be counting on my sisters on World pulse to help me get the message to young girls.

Thanks 

Iya

Thank you Iyamail for your piece!  I have a 13 year old daughter and this is a great reminder for me to be a "light" to her.  I love the way you phrased that.  Even in the U.S. where I feel youth are inundated with messaging about sex there is no substitute for the guidance of a trusted adult.  

Maggie, we have to lead these princesses by the hand so they are not led into the hands of boys/men with selfish motives. Let them blossom while we share our hard earned knowledge with them.

Iya

Iyamail, your message rings true in so many ways. Thanks for your story and reminding me of the importance of educating my own daughter about sexual education. I think your plans for creating a self-eval quiz and e-book are excellent ways in raising awareness and getting people familiar with safe and healthy options. I look forward to your updates!

Hi, Kaplan. Updates are here!

First of all, thanks for the encouragement. 

I have completed my book and will soon be releasing it to the world. Asha's Letter: Sex education for teen girls is almost here.

Support from my world pulse community was and continues to be highly motivating!

thank you for sharing your story, very well written and brings back the importance of being informed about sex and expectations.

Thanks Dionni. Creating awareness to help teen girls. let's do all we can from our lessons learnt to help them avoid the traps. We are the light.

Iya

This is an amazing story and an even more amazing passion. Thank you for sharing it and please continue to help parents and children!

Hello Iya, I have always known you back then in secondary school as an intelligent scientist.I never knew you were also a great story teller.Thanks for holding mothers accountable to talk to their children about their sexuality.Looking forward to reading your book.Kudus Sis.

Thanks sis, as you know, we all evolve with changing times and also with necessity. I aprreciate your encouragement.

You can get the book here. Keep up the great work too!

Iya