I was born in Sierra Leone, and I moved to Ghana at age 13. At age 15, I moved to Canada. My integration into Canadian society was quite smooth mostly because I already had family here in Winnipeg Canada.
DIFFERENT SOCIAL NORMS OF DATING
In Canada, one of the social norms that stood out to me especially while attending high school was the norms on dating and the Canadian approach to sex education. The reason is because norms for dating and sex education in both Sierra Leone and Ghana were very different and still are different within my African community in Canada as compared to the Canadian culture.
In African homes generally, especially in Canada, in regards to dating, once you say “dating” the parents and other family members just assume all kinds of scenarios that they deemed “bad. They assume that such exposure into the dating scene will corrupt the child and he or she may likely be a victim of early sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and believe that you are never going to not ever listen to them and be very disrespectful to everyone; basically assuming that you are going to rebel; simply because you are dating. Essentially, both back home, and here in canada, there is no way when you are under 18yrs that your parents would allow you to have boy/girlfriend. Dating was not okay until you are over 18yrs and even as that sometimes it causes some issues. The funny thing however, is that within my community, dating is not okay because you are a child, but talking about it was okay especially from the aunties because you will quite often hear an aunty saying” you are going to marry my son, I cannot wait.”
RESISTING MESSAGES OF DANGER, FEAR, AND SHAME
In regards to sex education, open discussions on issues on sex are regarded as taboo. Families, parents and teachers in my community both back home and here in Canada tend to deny young people information about sex. They usually withhold important information about sexuality and reproduction from youths and instead provides messages of danger, fear and shame. For us girls, when we get “the talk” about sexuality it is often limited to warnings about associated danger, such as pregnancies, and the importance of “preserving our selves “by maintaining virginity.
In Canada, however, there are programs such as Teentalk, and sex ed classes I have had the opportunities to be engaged in discussions about sex education. Such programs are very open to the idea of teaching girls about specific sexual stuff. That is something that does not happen in most African countries especially where I was born and semi-raised and even within my African communities in Canada. Such conversation is permitted to women either before or after marriage.
Our African parents have this notion on how they want us to grow and go to school before we can get involved in such activities. Especially for us girls. I have family members that always respond to me whenever I ask why they are the way they are about sex and dating saying that they want us “to grow and become mature before we get married and a child should remain a child until she gets married” Essentially, as girls we are not given that freedom to be on our own until we get married.
ABSTINENCE – NOT THE ONLY CHOICE
Discussions on abstinence should not be the only choice when talking about sex especially in our African communities. Abstinence only messages promotes ‘no-sex’ as the only way and that is creating more harm than good to most young African youth within our communities. It would be wonderful if everyone were prepared to practice abstinence until they were married, but it is not happening especially among teenagers. The best way is to educate and prepare us to for a healthy sex life.