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November 21, 2018

'Ask Without Shame' app seeks to eliminate taboo linked with sex education

A screenshot of one of the menus on the Ask Without Shame app. /COURTESY
A screenshot of one of the menus on the Ask Without Shame app. /COURTESY

Most of the time, the question of sexuality is usually ignored as most parents are not comfortable enough to engage their maturing or already matured kids in the subject.

Many people regard it as immoral and embarrassing since in most instances you have to give experiences that you have undergone.

In Kenya, HIV prevalence among boys aged between 15-24 years is 3.8 per cent, while that of girls is nearly 10 per cent between the ages of 15-19.

In addition, most of the girls by this time have had an unplanned pregnancy that is according to a 2010 report by USAID.

Some of these issues would be prevented if adequate sex education provided in schools.

While the Kenyan government introduced life skills in the school curriculum in 2008-09 as a means of facilitating sexual education, advocacy initiatives to address sexual and reproductive health in schools are unavailable.

By contrast, in Uganda, sex education was eliminated from the curriculum completely.

For this reason, Ruth Nabembezi, an HIV orphan, created Ask Without Shame.

The startup has built an app that runs on Android and USSD that makes is possible for teens and young adults to get accurate information about sex.

"Talking about sex is taboo in most Africa communities and Ask Without Shame provides potentially life-saving information," she said.

"Sex has been and still is a taboo subject and talking about it openly may deem one immoral," she added.

The various menus include 'STI Preventing', 'Birth Control', 'Your Body' and Health' among others." /COURTESY"

Young adults use the service because they are able to get the right information at any time concerning sexual health issues from medical experts.

Everyone is able to reach out to the medical experts, even without a smartphone as there is the option of a USSD.

The Android app has a soft pink theme and is easy to navigate.

The various menus include 'STI Preventing', 'Birth Control', 'Your Body' and Health' among others.

What are their most popular questions?

Youths often want to know on the different ways of having sex for instance and also what may be the repercussions of carrying out certain activities during sex,” Ruth said.

Most of the questions are answered instantly, but users also have the option of receiving replies through an email address they provide.

There is also an 'All You Need to Know' menu, where you get Frequently Asked Questions.

Four consellors and three medical experts are on hand to respond to questions and take phone calls. They also have a technical expert in the team who keeps the application up-to-date.

"We are now on our third version, which shows how far we have come," Nabembezi said.

"Sex education is the vaccine for addressing all problems of sexuality that children face from primary to high school because sexuality is a universal experience,” she said.

"No one should shun from speaking about it openly as it is part of our daily lives," she added.

Ruth says she wants to reach out to as many youth as possible to help them in getting the right information about sexual health and spread the message about Ask Without Shame across the whole of East Africa.

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