Advocacy Committee: Meet Ini Anselem

By Laura Grubb
SAHM Advocacy Committee Chair

As we enter this new era, SAHM’s advocacy activities to support healthy and strong young adults are as essential as always. I am inspired by SAHM’s commitment to expand its global reach and I am pleased to introduce a new global consultant, Iniobong (Ini) Anselem from Ogun state, Nigeria, to the Advocacy Committee. Here is Ini’s story….

I have been a medical laboratory scientist for close to a decade in public and private medical institutions. From the early stages of my career, I have had a particular interest in sexual and reproductive health particularly among the almost neglected group of persons either due to religious or socio-cultural beliefs. My concern resulted from the increased rate of sexual activities that occurs among young people with socio-cultural and religious beliefs that prevent adequate sexual conversations about the risk of unprotected sexual intercourse.

In my culture, there is the expectation that young unmarried people should not be having sex but the reality is that young unmarried people are having sex. What is worse is the fact that they lack the appropriate knowledge to navigate through this without being ‘judged’; hence they often seek advice from peers. This is particularly common here where most parents find it disturbing to discuss sex with their children as they often believe these conversations may make them so inquisitive that they indulge in these activities. To support my mission, my postgraduate research was focused on finding the predictors of contraceptive use among female undergraduates in a public tertiary institution in located in Ago-iwoye, Nigeria. In that study, it was found that the level of knowledge of contraceptive use was moderate while the actual use of contraceptive was low. Low contraceptive use was found to be a contributing factor to the high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections particularly syphilis and hepatitis among young blood donors.

When I found myself working in the cardiac center unit of a university teaching hospital environment where there was a high demand for blood, I saw an opportunity to address risky sexual activities leading to the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent and young adult blood donors. Interestingly, the university environment facilitated reaching out to the population of interest. To address this burning issue, I devised an indirect means of providing sex education among adolescents and young adults by creating an educational platform for blood donations.

Educating people on the importance of blood donation cannot be complete if their sexual activities are not addressed. So while I am encouraging and recruiting voluntary blood donors, I am also advising these donors on the need for safe sexual practices without the judgmental attitude common among most health workers.
I found my safe sex advocacy over time has not been limited to student blood donors and I longed for an opportunity to network with people with similar interests and opportunities for mentorship to promote significant changes among adolescents. When I came across the SAHM annual meeting link, I realized this was exactly what I wanted: a group of professionals interested in bringing a change among youth and, in proxy, the future. To bring to fore my activities and interests, I considered the advocacy committee as an appropriate platform not just to express these activities but also serve as a voice to attract individuals engaged in adolescent health who are yet to be a part of this group.

I am committed to bringing a change in adolescent sexual health by collaborating with organisations involved in sexual health and ensuring a niche is created for adolescent needs. I will work with policy makers to bring about implementation and monitoring of policies in areas with poor access to contraceptive and information regarding sex education.

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