St. Maarten AIDS Foundation conducted its long-running Girl Power workshop at the PSVE Academy this week, bringing the three half-day sessions to 51 first-form girls. Girl Power, a comprehensive sexuality education program, seeks to motivate young women to think about their life goals, build self-esteem, practice communication skills, and learn useful knowledge on sexually transmitted infections, with the end goal of reaching adulthood in a healthy manner.
The AIDS Foundation has been spearheading the program for seven years now. This year volunteer facilitators already visited the Sundial School, and most other schools are already scheduled or in the process of getting the dates firmed up. “Together with Real Talk, our parallel program for boys, Girl Power represents a unique opportunity for us to broach this important topic with the teens in an open and safe environment. Ultimately, we are aiming for them to stay healthy and the byproduct of the workshop is that they also learn to be empowered and productive adults”, noted Ria Uiterloo, the Head Coordinator for Girl Power.
Surveys taken before and after the workshops found that girls’ knowledge on topics such as sexually transmitted infections/ HIV, effectiveness of condoms, and pregnancy notably improved. For example, the percentage of girls who recognize that oral sex can transmit a sexually transmitted infection went up from 47% to 84%, and the percentage of girls knowing that anyone can get HIV if not protected went up from 51% to 92%.
Volunteer facilitators for the PSVE sessions were Amy Arrindell, Nkasazana Illis, Swinda Richardson, Nirmala Vlaun and Ria Uiterloo. Barbara Cocks, the Student Care Coordinator at PSVE was also instrumental in ensuring a smooth running of the workshop at the school. “It is always a pleasure to have a group of girls enthusiastically complete the workshop. They learn valuable life lessons and hopefully will have learned to find strength to walk away from situations that may negatively impact their future”, remarked Rae Merlet, AIDS Foundation’s Executive Director.
The AIDS Foundation is seeking new volunteer facilitators to be trained for Girl Power and Real Talk. Those interested are asked to contact email@example.com.