Global Early Adolescent Study activities during the Adolescent Health Symposium in Kenya held from 22/11/2017 to 24/11/2017 at Safari Park hotel
Pre-symposium with very young adolescents
November 22, 2017
30 adolescents from about 11 counties participated
Health professional (Pediatricians) from the Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital who work with adolescents led by Dr.Emran
5 staff members from the African Population and Health Research Centre
In the morning, we held a breakfast briefing session with all the group leaders from Gertrude’s hospital and APHRC staff where we reviewed the days’ activities.
We had a one and half hour session with the young adolescents which began at 11:30 am, immediately after the opening ceremony and ran upto around 12:45. Caroline and Beatrice co-led the sessions.
We divided the adolescents into six groups, with each group drawing a girls/boys timeline (events taking place in a hypothetical boy/girls life). This took about 30 minutes. Thereafter the different groups reconvened for a discussion around the timelines. Adolescents made presentations on the issues they discussed as they developed the timelines.
The issues that came up among boys were:
From ages 7 - 10, boys become more attentive, begins to show some level of maturity and start doing things on their own. In this age, they’re in lower primary school.
As the pubertal changes begins to take place, boys become more aggressive. They start helping in the house, or being sent to run errands or taking up some manual work like going to the farm. They also start engaging in romantic relations. In this age they are in upper primary school and some have joined secondary school
By mid-adolescence, they are in secondary school. They are more independent and easily fall into peer pressure; they spend lots of time on social media. Still continue dating secretly. They easily fall into fights with friends and easily bully others.
By late adolescence, they can openly talk about their girlfriends, they have national identity cards, which shows they are now adults, they can get a drivers licence. At this time they are getting into university/college
Pubertal changes for girls were said to begin from as early as 7 years and this was attributed to the effect of the kind of foods they eat. In early adolescence, they begin assuming more household chores like taking care of their siblings including washing them, cleaning the house, washing clothes, utensils, fetching firewood etc. As they pubertal changes begin to occur, some become more shy, are self-conscious, sometimes feeling happy and sometimes sad. During this period, girls were said to begin to be rebellious and always in conflicts with parents. They also start to develop sexual feelings.
In Mid-adolescence, they start romantic relationships, start spending more time on social media (especially chatting) and starts working on her physical appearance – dressing, make-up etc. Also mentioned access to pornography. They start being assertive. Some girls engage in sexual relations and get pregnant and also exposed more to sexual abuse and drugs. There was mention of girls undergoing FGM and also being married off
By the time they are in late adolescence, they are more confident/assertive but easily fall into peer pressure. As some join colleges/universities, others will settle down in marriage. They also get national identity cards and are now regarded as adults. In adulthood, they begin to reflect on their past, making amends where necessary. They can now be fully responsible and trustworthy.
At the end of the group session, Beatrice shared the global findings, highlighting the similarities with the discussions that the young people had had.
A question and answer session then followed. Adolescents were encouraged to write down their questions (if they were not comfortable speaking out). In most of the questions, adolescents sought to understand why the changes in adolescence differ from one person to the other, for instance, “why do some adolescents develop acne while others do not?” or “why do some become arrogant/rude while others are quiet and humble? Questions on HIV treatment were also raised and those that touched on maternal health e.g. breech births.
Beatrice made a presentation on “Adolescent and Parental Reactions to Puberty in Nigeria and Kenya: A Cross-Cultural and Intergenerational Comparison” which was based on the article with the same title published in the October supplement of the JAH. The session was attended by about 75 people. One of the key discussion that came up was the need for parental engagement and especially the role of the fathers in discussions around sexual development