Don’t Google, Go Ask The Website Breaking Taboos

Note: The articles under the “My Rejections” tab are those that have been rejected for publication by all major media outlets either due to topics that are too controversial, not relevant or simply because of my crappy writing.

This blog post is about the launch of a website www.youask.pk . I attended the launch event in December 2014 and was invited to cover it however no major publication agreed to publish this piece due to reasons best known to them.

When Pakistan ranked number one in the countries turning to Google to search for porn, it lead almost everyone to the conclusion that all Pakistanis are sexually oppressed and frustrated who turn to the internet to satisfy their sexual desires.
However, Google has no idea about the larger picture: that the youth raised in our society are so misinformed about their developing bodies and reproductive health, that they turn to pornography to seek answers. The latter perspective developed in my mind when last week I was invited to the Launch of E&M health innovations by the Youth Empowerment Alliance Pakistan held at a local café in Karachi.

Pakistan has one of the largest populations of youth in the region and most of them are raised in an environment where they are confused regarding their sexual and reproductive health and don’t feel comfortable discussing these issues even with their parents. Sexual predators in our country take advantage of this fact and according to statistics; eighty percent of Pakistani children are sexually abused at some point in their lives.

Keeping in mind Pakistan’s social limitations, E&M health innovations have been launched to provide a platform for the youth to seek professional and accurate answers to all their questions related to sexual and reproductive health through easily accessible technology. These services are being provided free of cost.

These innovations are a part of the ASK initiative. The acronym ASK stands for “Access, Knowledge and Services “and it is a service that aims to raise awareness among the youth about questions raised in their minds which they might feel ashamed to ask their peers or adults. The ASK initiative in Pakistan is supported by the following four organizations:

Child Helpline International (CHI): CHI is the global network of 173 help lines already established around the world since 2003. CHI is supporting Madadgar national helpline in Pakistan.

dance4life: It is an organization developed to inform the youth to make informed choices helping in prevention of spread of HIV and AIDS

International Planned Parenthood federation (IPPF): IPPF is an international organization supporting the right of parents to planned parenthood.

Rutgers WPF:  Rutgers WPF works for sustainable human development by promoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of youth, women and marginalized groups

ASK aims to provide maximum access to the youth through the following three E&M health innovations:

ASK WEBSITE:

ASK’s website www.youask.pk contains various informative videos and articles related to reproductive health plus answers to the most common questions received on ASK help lines. There is also a dictionary on the site that explains terms related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The site is further divided into two sections, one for children and one for parents, so that parents can also find guidance on how to explain socially taboo topics to their children. My favorite is the myths section where various myths prevalent in our society regarding reproductive and sexual problems are debunked or supported citing scientific reasons.

ASK SMS SERVICE:

Besides the website there is a SMS service called ASK-SMS services. To start using this service type ASK followed by name, city and age and send it to 8398. Once registered, you can ask ASK any question regarding your sexual and reproductive health rights.  ASK promises to keep all your information and queries confidential.

ASK helplines:

There are also eight help lines where expert counselors and doctors are available to provide correct and confidential guidance on any sexual and reproductive health matter. The contact numbers of all help lines are given in the “Need help or advice” section of the website youask.pk. The best part is that almost all of these help lines are free. The experts on these help lines answer questions regarding family planning products and services, counseling regarding child sexual abuse, domestic violence, youth sexual and reproductive health issues and various other emotional and psychological problems.

At the launch session, we were presented with a few sample questions received on the ASK service:

“Will I lose my virginity if I play sports?”

“I am getting married. I don’t know how to use a condom”

These are questions our children fear asking their parents or teachers for fear of being judged or criticized. Sadly, Google is not of much help either when you are searching sexual health related queries as anything related to sexual health usually brings up porn results.

Thus ASK is an excellent platform for the youth who are growing up in a country where despite an ever present pressure on getting married and having children, resources to access correct and helpful information regarding any sexual or reproductive problem are either not available or too expensive.

Featured Image: https://www.pexels.com/

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