Country’s rural teenagers to receive lessons in sex education

The number of teens having unprotected sex is higher in rural areas than in cities, according to a report from the reproductive health project for adolescents.

That’s why the organization has made tackling sexual education in remote regions its top priority.


Adolescents in rural areas lack important life skills, says Nguyen Thi Xuan Cuc, chairwoman of the Committee for Population, Family and Children in Long An Province.

Few young people understand how to refuse premarital sex or protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, she says.


In total, the organization’s sexual educators will visit six health centers, five high schools, six cultural centers in communes and dormitories in city like Ha Noi and HCM City as well as places where young people hang out in Ha Tay, Quang Ninh, Quang Binh and Long An provinces.


The project’s goals are to teach youth about reproductive health, give advice and provide medical services if needed.


This is the second phase of the organization’s project to raise sexual health awareness in Vietnam. It will cost approximately US$300,000 euros over two years.


Two-thirds of the funding will be provided by the German bank Bankengruppe, with the rest supplied by the Government.


Talking to youth

The project’s first phase saw good results with more people using contraceptives in rural regions, say representatives from the organization. But there is still much more to do, especially when it comes to protecting Vietnamese youth.


Viet Nam has made remarkable progress in improving health care for women, adolescents and children in recent years, however, there is a need to step up long-term programs in order to communicate with young people, says Ngo Khang Cuong, director of the Communications and Education Department.


Another goal of the project’s second phase is improving birthing facilities, he says.

The National Committee for Population, Family and Children reports that out of the 37 million adolescents in Viet Nam, 16.5 per cent have had premarital sex. o­ne-third of those surveyed recently admitted they didn’t use any kind of protection.


Experts agree o­ne of the reasons unprotected sex is so prevalent outside at cities is that youth no longer live at home while attending school.


For instance, most of the students who live far away from Tan Thanh High School in Long An live in dormitories and boarding houses.


Other sexual health educators attribute the trend to young mothers who don’t have any knowledge about sexual health to teach their young.


Children that lack an understanding about puberty and why their bodies are changing will not ask parents and teachers about sex, said Pham Thanh Dong, deputy chairman of the Quang Binh Province’s Committee for Population, Family and Children.


Girls unexpectedly become mothers at the age of 16 or even younger, he says.

The project’s management board has established six offices at high schools in rural areas. Though they say their budget constraints have limited what they can accomplish, board representatives are calling their efforts a success.


The organization will use newspapers and leaflets to communicate their messages, in addition to seminars and workshops, with the help of People’s Committees, say Dong.


Teaching each other

In Ha Noi, the Youth House is a place teens come to get information and help promote sexual health to their peers.


Tran Phuong Hoa, a second-year student at the Ha Noi Tourism College, has been a youth sexual health officer for two years.


Youth can inform their friends and schoolmates about safer sex by writing music, hosting fashion shows or staging performances about reproductive health, say Hoa.


“Health experts also are invited to talk about sex and the importance of understanding reproductive health,” she says.

Women of Vietnam Review No 1/2007