Category Archives: Sexuality

ICASA Youth Pre-Conference

The youth pre- Conference in Zimbabwe. Photo- ICASA Youth Front Facebook
The youth Pre-Conference in Zimbabwe. Photo- ICASA Youth Front Facebook

The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) is a major international AIDS conference which takes place in Africa. Its current biennial hosting alternates between Anglophone and Francophone African countries. The 2015 ICASA was held in Harare, Zimbabwe.

I did not get the opportunity to be part of the conference this year. However, due to my commitment to disseminating news surrounding HIV/AIDS and SRHR issues affecting young people, here is are the outcomes of the youth Pre-Conference.

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We young people at the ICASA YouthFront organized Pre-Conference for the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, held on the 27th and 28th of November 2015 at the Zimbali Conference Centre, in Harare, Zimbabwe, under the theme ‘Agenda 2030: Delivering for Youth in the Post 2015 Era’.

Having noted the tremendous progress in the HIV response in Africa, curtailed with notable challenges in access to comprehensive HIV and SRHR services and effects of HIV on our continent, where AIDS is now the number one cause of adolescent deaths, and disproportionately affecting our young girls and women, as the future generation and young people of Africa therefore, we commit to,

  1. Advocate for the review of punitive and conflicting laws, policies and legal frameworks that impede access to HIV and SRHR services for all – leaving no one behind – including age of consent in our respective countries,
  2. Influence governments to invest in research and development targeted at   new prevention technologies that work for adolescents and young people including Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
  3. An Africa youth task-force for prevention research and development.
  4. Influence governments to increase financing for health including increasing domestic financing for the HIV response and reproductive health commodities.
  5. Strengthen and support structures for young people living with HIV to own the HIV response.
  6. Be part of HIV and SRHR policy making processes, implementation and evaluation ensuring meaningful youth participation and accountability including in institutional processes such as the Global Fund.
  7. Lead country level actions to advocate for the delivery of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
  8. Invest our efforts to participate in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs framework, including the commitment to End of AIDS by 2030.
  9. Increase our engagement with existing funding and program opportunities like the Global Fund, All in!, DREAMS, Every woman Every Child.
  10. To support fellow young people to dispel myths and disinformation which drive stigma and fuel discrimination. Further ensuring that the human rights and dignity of every adolescent and young person are protected, promoted and fulfilled, without distinction of any kind.
  11. Commit to increased engagement and advocacy with our governments, regional economic communities, the African Union, United Nations agencies and other civil society groups to accelerate efforts towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly targets related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, ending AIDS, investing in education. Raising awareness among policy makers and other stakeholders on the importance of the demographic dividend towards the sustainable development of Africa.

Presented on 28th November 2015 at the closing plenary of the ICASA Youth Pre-Conference.

Document source.

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Art & Abolition discourse, November 30, end minors’ sexual slavery.

ART & ABOLITION

Art and Abolition will hold an event on November 30th in solidarity with the UN Women’s Campaign: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

The Art and Abolition event will take place at the Mageuzi Theatre (PAWA254, Africa Alliance of YMCA Building, State House Crescent, Nairobi) at 6PM.

Featured works from Arts to End Slavery will be exhibited, along with various artistic performances. Guest speakers from Freely in Hope and HAART Kenya will address the issue of sexual slavery in Kenya.

Art and Abolition is rooted in the conviction that “until we are all free, none of us are free.” The event is not about charity but about solidarity. It is a movement of everyday people coming together and honoring their responsibility as global citizens, which is to promote awareness and galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.

The organization Art & Abolition, strives to end sexual violence by rooting itself in the healing power of the arts. The organization specifically targets girls aged 15 and under who, because of poverty and/or pressure and threats of violence from their caregivers are being forced to sell their bodies for everyday needs like food, water, and school fees.

The end goal is to liberate survivors of sexual slavery, change mentalities in communities concerning sexual abuse, and equip caregivers with tools for financial stability. Art & Abolition does this by offering healing arts programs, education, and economic empowerment.

According to the US department of labor’s bureau of international labor affairs report 2014, In Kenya, children are only required to attend school until the age of 14. This standard makes children ages 14-15 particularly vulnerable to child labor as they are not required to be in school but are not legally permitted to work.

Come join the discourse and stand in solidarity with this noble cause.

Details

Date: 30th November, 2015

Time: 6-8pm.

Venue: Mageuzi Theatre (PAWA254, Africa Alliance of YMCA Building, State House Crescent, Nairobi)

Host: Art & Abolition

Dancing 4 Demand on Global female condom day 2015

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Wednesday, September 16, was the Global Female Condom Day (GFCD) 2015, and the world’s leading manufacturer of the product announced it has sold more than 500 million female condoms in over 144 countries since launching its product in 1995.

In Kenya, female condoms are rare and expensive. They are available in select donor funded clinics and not many women are aware of their existence. They are mostly associated with commercial sex workers, yet, they provide a great substitute of the male condom. Awareness on the use of female condoms could increase women’s options of contraception methods.

The day was commemorated in Kisumu by PATH, an international health organization that transforms global health through innovation, in conjunction with Keeping Alive Societies Hope (KASH), a local based NGO addressing the health and rights challenges faced by marginalized populations in the Kenya. The day was marked by dancing for demand of female condoms, discussions on the challenges of distribution and condom demonstrations.

The Commercial Sex Workers at the celebrations raised among other issues, the high cost of female condoms compared to the male ones. A female condom retails at 300 Kenya shillings. They also asked questions why female condoms are not packaged in 3’s like their male counterparts. Here is a clip on how it went down.

GFCDhttps://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0Jr-t2IkYDveUM3ZEphRzkzbm8/preview

Dance4Demand, a collaborative initiative by Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights organizations, holds dances globally on GFCD, while advocating for the availability of female condoms. Anyone can organize a dance in their community with resources to facilitate the advocacy efforts provided on their website.

According to Guttmatcher Institute, widespread promotion of the female condom will help to destigmatize the method and normalize it as a potential method for all sexually active women and men, not just those who engage in high-risk behaviors or are living with HIV or AIDS.

The female condom was designed to give women greater control over their own protection, without having to rely on their partners to use a condom. However, many studies confirm that partner cooperation is necessary for women to use the female condom successfully.

Female condoms are inserted in the vagina before sex. An inner ring on the condoms aids in insertion, while a larger, softer ring remains outside the vagina and keeps the condom in place. Like traditional condoms used by men, the FC2 helps prevent pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Improvements on design keep evolving as manufacturers respond to the consumer feedback.

Conversations on abortions trend on twitter

Credit: www.returnofkings.com
Credit: http://www.returnofkings.com

Abortion is a topic that raises controversy and many would rather steer clear of. The fact is that whether you are pro life or pro choice, women are still going to have abortions.

Some of these abortions are unsafe and lead to loss of life. According to African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), each year, an estimated 47,000 women across the globe die from unsafe abortions. Countless others suffer serious and life-threatening injuries. Approximately 13 per cent of maternal deaths globally are attributed to unsafe abortion. Ninety-five per cent of deaths and other complications related to unsafe abortions occur in developing countries.

The conversations were sparked by two women on social media.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsToday, the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion trended on twitter for the better part of the day. Below are some of the conversations.

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//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThere were those who were against the hashtag, as seen on the following tweets.

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This is still going to be a topic of contention.

Sometimes, in order to follow our moral compass and/or our hearts, we have to make unpopular decisions or stand up for what we believe in.
Tabatha Coffey

Kike Talk on Sex: Consent and Power

Credit: ww.kiketele.com/
Credit: ww.kiketele.com/

On Saturday, I took part in the inaugural Kike Talks organized by Kike Tele, a woman-centric organization focused on creating conversations around issues affecting women. The event took place on 19th September 2015 from 3 pm to 5 pm at Soul Food Café which is at Liaison House (State House Avenue).

We had really candid conversations around women’s sexuality. The participants shared their experiences around sexual consent and power. It was evident that as women, we have power to choose whether or not to  have sex.

Societal norms have placed women in a passive position when it comes to openly expressing their sexuality. Women are expected to carry themselves in a certain ‘dignified’ way. The bar is even raised higher if a woman is single at a certain age. Some labels such as ‘Whore’ or ‘Slut’ are often used to subdue women who tend to be assertive and aggressive.

Present at the talk was a representative of Marie Stopes Kenya who answered all our questions on reproductive health and contraceptives. Contraceptives have myths surrounding them and judging from our questions, more education still needs to be carried out to have a more empowered woman. We also got to learn the array of SRHR services provided by Marie Stopes.

I certainly enjoyed taking part in the talks and will be on the lookout for other monthly forums. If you would like to take part in these talks, like the Kike Tele Facebook page and be on the lookout for the monthly events.

Date rape & disclosure of HIV status.

Photo credit: humoredin.com
Photo credit: humoredin.com

I have finally found my tongue on the famous ‘Mollis’ audio that went viral over a month ago. I deliberately stayed mum about it while listening to conversations around it. Some condemning the act as rape while others- get me, even learned women- saying that the lady wanted to what she was getting. “She opened her legs, why are Kenyans creating such a fuss around the issue?” Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I respect that. Which is why I will not knuckle anyone who commented in any way.

Think of a HIV positive lady who has a male friend. They met about two years ago on social media. They have been talking for sometime and have met in public once. The guy is a Christian- a good quality for a prospective boyfriend for Missy. You, see Missy has been in church for sometime now and she’s all too familiar with the phrase, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’. HIV positive does not mean you can’t date, does it?

The second time, the guy invites her to his house. From her judgment, she thinks she can trust this new found friend- Missy accepts, after all, there’s no hurry into anything serious (They are still getting to know each other). They agree to meet at a landmark in Eastleigh, where the gentleman- now having added several kilos meets her. She jokes about his weight, “Have you been eating with a blind man?” He laughs as they walk into an alley in the busy estate.

She enters the neat single room with a red velvet carpet and a 21 inch TV tuned to National Geographic. They talk about the future, their likes, their ideal partner, just enough revelations for a ‘first date’. Nothing too deep. The date goes on well until she decides it is time to go. It is dark outside and it’s raining. The nice guy suggests that Missy should wait a little for the rain to subside. “I promise to escort you”, Mr. Nice reassures Missy.

The heavens have decided to conspire against Missy, the born again sister who made the stupid decision to go unaccompanied to this brother’s house. It won’t stop raining. Missy’s thoughts are now unsettled.’How are church folk going to perceive me?” she thinks. Her phone rings. The caller ID is Pastor. She picks the phone to speak to her pastor, while Mr. Nice also receives a call and naturally, he has to speak freely because he is in his house. Missy panics as the male voice is heard in the background. Pastor asks, “Is that the TV in the background?” “Yes dad”, Missy lets out a lie that even she finds hard to believe.

After the phone conversation with her pastor, Mr. Nice starts bad-mouthing ‘pastors of today’. “They are just out there to extort people of their money”. The sudden double speak confuses her.

“I really have to go, the rain has subsided, please escort me to the stage”, she tells him. “I am not going anywhere in this rain”, he tells her. “Aren’t you in a house? Make yourself comfortable, spend the night, you will go tomorrow”, he adds with finality. It’s already 10.30 pm, and it looks like Missy is not going anywhere. She makes calculations in her mind, “I will just sleep on the couch”. She asks for something to cover herself. “Come get this one”, Mr. Nice tells her.

As soon as she goes past the curtain separating the sitting area and the bed, things change. Mr. Nice gets all over her with kisses and caresses. Oh it’s been long since she had someone plant a kiss on her lips. She promised God that she was done with making stupid decisions, so she pulls herself off. He overpowers her as he pins her down with his weight. “Oh God, I should have just left the instance I thought of going. No one melted from being rained on”, she thinks as she frantically tries to free herself from his grip. “Let me go!” she cries.

“This is not a winning battle”, she thinks. “At least use a condom”, she pleads with him severally. He pulls a condom from his wallet, still pinning her down with his body and hurriedly wears it, before continuing with his business. After doing his thing, he rolls over and drifts off to a snort-filled sleep. Missy stays awake all night thinking of what she should do. “Do I get mad at myself or at him?” she thinks.

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Two months later, Mr. Nice finds out that Missy is HIV positive. He calls Missy, “Do you know how young my children are?” “Why didn’t you tell me such a thing about yourself?”

“You didn’t let me, that’s why I told you to use a condom”, she answers after a listening to the torrential accusations thrown at her. She chooses not to explain the details of “protecting him”, she just wants this phone call to end so that she forgets it as quickly as possible.

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Does it mean date rape is OK? Because judging from “Mollis” clip, and the conversations around it, there is no rape there. What does it mean when a woman says no? Does it mean something different?

My friend Renee Murrey wrote a letter to Mollis’ girlfriend to tell her that it was rape. Renee was also part of a panel on a local TV station talking about the rape culture.

Missy could have been daft, naive, and gullible, but she, like the girl in the audio, told the guy to stop. Mr.  Nice decided, “Here’s my chance and I am not letting it go”. She was over-powered by his weight, so pushing him would not have worked. At least she protected him by insisting on a condom.

So the only thing that can get you out of a date rape situation is disclosing your HIV status. That is if the assailant believes you. This must have been the thinking behind South African president, Jacob Zuma when he signed a bill earlier this year to have HIV positive people tattoo their status near their genitals. Something I might write on in a separate post- might!

“The mark is to protect those who can’t say no to sex. I mean if you can’t read between the lines you should read between the legs because that’s where the status would be tatted. The choice to be HIV positive is now in your hands or your genitals for that matter…. We also encourage those who had been living with the virus to go to the nearest public hospitals to get their status tatted in”

Being Mary Jane: A typical single woman’s story

gstatic.com
gstatic.com

This week I have been watching Being Mary Jane series by Mara Brock Akil and I must say it tells the story of most single women. I intentionally want to steer clear of the black woman angle because women no matter their race, go through similar experiences.

Let me speak as a single woman chasing a career, educational advancement and financial stability. Sometimes you are so overwhelmed with life that you wake up to realize that you need children, a family and love. Could be the answer to my love of children.They are adorable, they make you smile involuntarily. I experienced this during my short lived attempt at motherhood as an inexperienced teenager, a decade ago. Maybe my attachment to babies helps me connect to those rosy memories. (I have to confess that after giving birth, I remember actually missing little David kicking inside me.)

Every woman has motherly instincts that make her want to experience the joy of feeling a growing baby bump, experiencing the discomfort of morning sickness and eventually holding their own baby. That’s why Mary Jane goes through the humiliating egg freezing procedure on National Television- albeit fictional, it resonates with many single women’s deep, secret desires.

I know I am still waiting for Mr. Right, or is it ‘Still looking for Romeo?’ I have been looking for Romeo ever since I was 23. Maybe he came and I never noticed. Maybe, in the article on KENWA’s Chance Magazine, I was just saying it without really meaning it. Maybe I was not ready to enter a relationship and bring another baby into this world under the wrong circumstances again. You see, once beaten, twice shy.

Does it mean I have not received offers? Don’t get it twisted, I’ve received a number and I choose to tread carefully. I’ve seen my friends deciding to take the risk of having babies out of wedlock and most of them are happy, some are miserable though. There are two sides of every coin. I respect every sister out there who is raising a child as a single mother, either by default or by choice.

Question is, do we now settle for less than what we deserve? Someone told me I don’t pray enough for my husband, another asked me what I was still doing in school. He said that too many books are corrupting my mind, preventing me from settling. This is someone who hopes to call you his wife. Need I say more? So yes, the clock is ticking, and it’s loud, yet it will not lead me to a rash decision, at least not now. So help me God…

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer

 

Ousmane Sembène- Moolaadé

This post was originally posted in http://francophonie-at-daystar.blogspot.co.ke

Watching this feature film left me with several questions and lessons.

The film was released in 2004, and was the last film directed by Senegalese, Ousmane Sembène before his death in 2007. Sembène is noted as the first African film director to achieve international recognition.

The film is about Female Genital Mutilation- a fictional story that looks so real. I asked whether it was based on a true story, surprisingly, it was fictional. Sembène is a good story teller who brought the ills of FGM without preaching.

Highlights of the film are:

  • Women being kept from listening to radio, because they were being taught Western values.
  • Colle defying her husband’s orders to revoke the Moolaadé-spell that protected the girls who ran to her for protection. She endured the lashes from her husband just to  save the girls.
  • The way being a Bilakoro- Uncircumcised girl was considered unclean.
  • The coexistence of multiple wives in a polygamous marriage, and the respect they have for each other.
  • FGM makes a woman’s life miserable not only in childbirth but also during sex with her husband. (Colle cuts her finger to camouflage the bleeding after a night with her husband)
  • It is not so much about the cultural practices. Oppressive cultural practices are about power.

After the film, I did not talk much. I was however thinking of the Maasai of Kenya. Some of them still practice FGM, together with other communities. The reason my thoughts went to the Maa community was because I recently met a son of Maasai, with whom we were considering a relationship.

In a bid to be sure, I asked him whether his community practiced FGM. His answer was affirmative and he was looking for a partner who could easily adapt to cultural practices. The rest is history, we were like water and oil which could not mix.

Who is to blame for the ‘secret contraceptives’?

Photo credit: timeslive.co.za
Photo credit: timeslive.co.za

Tuesday August 18th DN2 cover story, No baby in my house, by Abuta Mageto about mothers secretly duping their teenage daughters to get contraceptives, reminds me of the secret struggle that parents have. Sexuality has always been a taboo subject in the African setting. Which is why getting most mothers to start the sexuality conversation with their teenage daughters is still a big challenge.

A while back I hosted my 14 year old niece who had just finished primary school. That girl gave me such headache because she was all over being friendly with several men, most of whose intentions were clearly not well  meaning. She is a natural beauty, so she was enjoying the glory of catching the attention of men. I feared her getting in trouble- you know pregnant trouble or STIs while she was under my care.

I heard hushed rumors that her grandmother had her injected with contraceptives because she could not handle her. She tried bringing her to me so that as her aunt, I could manage her. After one month, her teenage hormones were too much for me to handle. I say this with remorse because I had to send her back to her grandmother. The remorse is due to the fact that I give a lot of young people counsel on sexuality.

Her mother, my cousin died after long struggle with illness, leaving her and her younger brother as orphans, under the care of grandparents. I was afraid that she might end up with the same story her mother had. These things used to be spoken of in hushed tones, especially if one had been admitted severally in ward 8 of Kenyatta National Hospital, somewhere my late cousin was accustomed to.

Her grandmother the best she could at least to prevent the burden of raising great grand children by secretly putting her on contraceptives. Because she is a Christian, she could not procure abortions for her granddaughter, but many parents do, as Mageto quotes in his article,

Many see children born out of wedlock not only a social burden, but also an unnecessary financial burden in the face of rising inflation, and so, despite the legal restrictions and the medical risks associated with abortion, it is still prevalent in the country.

I tried talking to her about the risks of being sexually active at such a young age. Eventually, I had to send her back to the village, mostly because I was still a student and I could not sustain living with her. This was the time that I also released Earnest and his mother.

As we speak, she has two children with different fathers. I recently spoke on phone with her and asked her if she had plans of getting married to any of her babies’ daddies. She just giggled and said no.

Would anyone blame my aunt for getting contraceptives for this girl? After raising her children, she had been left with her grandchildren to raise and to add salt to a festering wound, she now has great grand children to raise. There is the aspect of preserving the ‘Christian’ image of the family, but also averting the economic burden on already retired grannies. A sad twist to the plot is my aunt was recently widowed. Her husband, my uncle, is yet to be buried this weekend. What next for her?

Hormone replacement

Photo Credit: everydayfeminism.com
Photo Credit: everydayfeminism.com

I am multitasking, shifting between doing a term paper and  many other things including Facebook. A chat notification, it’s my friend Eugene. “Oh um i got something that’s been bothering me some time. I’d like ur opinion.”

I pay attention knowing very well that this might be another surprise. The last time Eugene told me something was bothering him, he revealed his struggle with his sexuality. “Out with it, what’s that?” I type.

“Woah! Thought you wouldn’t reply .OK it’s something I’ve been feeling for a very long time kay… To cut the Long story short into a header, I wanna get on hormone therapy but i don’t know who to talk to openly.”

“I’m bringing you the book i promised.” I type. “Hormones are good if they are your natural ones. Artificial could get you in trouble. Breast cancer and stuff.”

“Cool.. Miss reading. Specially now, kinda sickish… And I’ve checked the entire spectrum of hormones n their reactions. I feel imbalanced inside and I’ve thought about going to see a doc but how do you start? “hey so my hormones feel out of place ” and they wouldn’t understand. Anyway I just needed ur advice on what u think I should do regarding the pills,should I take or find some other way to create the balance?”

“First of all, you are too young to start thinking about hormone replacement. Do you know it is usually done to menopausal women and senile men. How do you know you are imbalanced? confused emoticon”

I do what any clueless person nowadays does. Type dangers of hormone replacement on google. I copy part of the article and send it to him.
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What are the risks of hormone therapy? In the largest clinical trial to date, a combination estrogen-progestin pill (Prempro) increased the risk of certain serious conditions, including: Heart disease, Stroke, Blood clots, Breast cancer……

The risks of hormone therapy may vary depending on whether estrogen is given alone or with a progestin, and depending on your current age and age at menopause, the dose and type of estrogen, and other health risks such as your risks of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, cancer risks and family medical history. All of these risks should be considered in deciding whether hormone therapy might be an option for you.
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“Haha! too young? That’s an under statement. well through self diagnosis and it didn’t just start yesterday. Its been off/on for months. Either way I have to make a decision soon, it’s taking its toll on me. Might be also why I feel sick right now. So you know any other ways I can balance? The pills r a last resort.”

“Oh thanks.. I’ve read everything even asked a med student ‘friend’ bout what brands might be okay for me. Just needed an outside opinion. Oh! n’ I’ve tried eating healthy, exercises, engaging in versatile activities to see if they can boost the hormones to balance naturally.”

“You need to see a real doctor, not a med school student. I can recommend a doctor.”

“Who is okay with me being ‘gay’ then fine coz he/she might understand what’s going on for me. Oh n the med student is an established doc/surgeon, I don’t know 4 sure. She deals with microbiology, smthng smthng transplants and evolutionary development. That’s why I took her advice with caution and not taking everything. So about that doc you can recommend?

“I’ll give you the number. Meanwhile try eating  lots of nuts (Peanuts, cashew nuts, coconut), beetroot, cabbage, carrots, corn, beans, garlic, parsley, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, soy products, split peas, squash, yams, zucchini.”

“Love coconuts n zucchini.”

Days later….. Still on chat.

“How are you Julllie, oh btw I started hormone therapy. I’ve not felt so okay in a loong time.”

“Did you get help from the doc whose number I gave you?”

“Noo! I didn’t call her sorry. I was dialing her number yesterday and well, I couldn’t do it. Guess i just didn’t really find enough strength to… How to start explaining ur gay, u feel like a woman in a man’s body, have I prayed for this thing to go away?….list is endless. I cant deal with that right now. Am really grateful you tried to help me out. If anything comes up, I know she’z on the back burner.”

Eugene went into a chemist and ordered birth control pills, without prescription. I feel a little ticked off at him not taking my advise. But then again it’s not my duty to influence his choices. He has a mind and a free will. What angers me is the casual way in which  the chemist sold him the pills.

“I asked for the pill as if I had been sent by someone. The chemist was a lady. She just told me that my girlfriend probably needs them for her hormones.”

I’m trying to understand this young man. I’m trying to help, sometimes he gets on my nerves. Doesn’t he care for his health? How would you react?