I used to get upset whenever anyone would talk about sex in my presence. I thought they were a sinful and spoiled lot. I even thought the adults who talked to my friends and I about it were irresponsible.

This was until one day in August a couple of years ago. Dunson, a very close friend of mine, visited me at my place with a copy of ‘Young Voice’ magazine; a magazine that discusses challenges Kenyan teenagers face and ways to solve them. By the expression on his face, I could tell he had something to share. I did not wait for him to ask me look at it – he knows I’m the kind of girl where no interesting piece of writing escapes my attention.

I grabbed the magazine from him and flipped through the pages. Then something caught my sight in bold, large letters: “SEX.” I threw the magazine at him. I thought this was his way of getting me into the games young boys and girls like. Dunson looked at me in the eyes and said, “Listen Mercy, it is a high time we need to relieve people of the burden that rests on their backs. It is time we enlighten our fellow teens about sex. Many young people fear talking about it, so unless we take the initiative no one is going to do it for us. No one can. Remember, we must be the change we want to see in the world. When we talk about it openly, people shall learn from us and then we can influence many others. We can advise girls to report any cases of assault. Just think about it. Mercy, you can do it. The whole world looks up to you and the decision you make about this.”

When Dunson finished talking, he excused himself and left me alone to think and decide. That night, I realized Dunson was very right to say the world was looking up to me. Sex is not something one should fear talking about anyway. In fact, the more we talk about it, the more we familiarize ourselves with sex, and the more educated and empowered we become. In addition, we become less vulnerable to sexual assault because we are able to say ‘no’ and stand by our decision.

I now look people in eyes as I talk to them about sex. I tell them about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and pregnancy and how to make a choice to have sex and not be forced or incited. But mostly I tell them that abstinence is the best choice. I am comfortable saying the word “sex” to my peers and older people. I have been able to change people’s attitude and points of view about it. I learned that being shy leads to the misfortunes of many Kenyan girls who fall victim to the little knowledge about sex and see sex as a stranger. They fear talking about sex and thus they don’t know how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Seeing Kenyan girls drop out of school due to pregnancy has made me realize we need to be more open to talk about sex so others won’t meet the same issues in the future.