Monday, April 8, 2019
By Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive, Family Planning.
I was given a present recently. It wasn’t my birthday, but a friend had found a little token on the internet they thought I would like. And they were right! My present was a little brooch in the shape of a uterus with tiny faux pearls where the ovaries would be. It’s kind of quirky and I love it.
I’ve been wearing my pin out and about recently, and it’s got a lot of attention. I have been surprised at some of the responses, particularly how many people are embarrased by it. This embarrasment about a piece of anatomical jewellery has made me think more broadly about the silence and the uneasiness that surrounds sexual and reproductive health. It’s an area of health that we don’t like to talk about – certainly we don’t talk about it enough – and that needs to change.
A wise person once said that nature abhors a vacuum – I tend to think it’s more that silence creates a vacuum. If we don’t, or won’t, talk about important issues like sexual and reproductive health with loved ones, friends and our young people, then who will. This is paramount now more than ever, with social media and the internet having an ever-growing influence. We need to make sure we – as parents, partners, family and friends - share our understanding about what good sexual and reproductive health means to us and listen to the perspectives of others.
We need to make sure that all people have someone to talk to to get the information they need to make good choices for themselves about their sexual and reproductive health. It is also critical that politicians are making evidence-informed decisions at a population level – not decisions based on anecdotes or moral panic.
There are important conversations to be had at home with our young ones. We need to talk with them about their bodies, about relationships, about what they’re seeing on television and online, about diversity and difference. These are ongoing conversations – adapting and evolving as our young people mature and using current events as a reference point for good or for bad. It is from these conversations that we share with our young people the values that we hold dear, our expectations of them and our aspirations for them.
These are important conversations at a government level too. It is here that responsibility sits for ensuring that our systems and funding support teacher professional development to deliver all aspects of our curriculum - including sexuality education. It is here that responsibility sits for ensuring that our systems and funding allow people to access clinical services to keep themselves and their partners well. And that these clinical services cover the gamut of sexual and reproductive health – from contraception, to maternity care, to termination services..
Sexual and reproductive health is central to what it means to be human, and good sexual and reproductive health is central to our wellbeing. That is why on World Health Day (7 April) I want to encourage everyone to keep getting better at talking openly to make good sexual and reproductive health for all a priority. You don’t need to wear your uterus on your jacket to make these conversations happen – but it’s a conversation starter at least!
<<Editorial first published on Stuff.co.nz on Sunday 7 April 2019>>
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