A reproductive health workshop with a difference

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
April 27, 2000

THE workshop to teach reproductive health, was going to be unlike any other done by the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA). It was going to impart messages to students and entertain them simultaneously.

The plan of the GRPA and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) worked.

It was a sleepy Wednesday morning. The time was 09:00 hours and students had assembled at the Park Hotel, Main Street, Georgetown. As is common with such workshops, questionnaires were handed out, and of course, there was the ice-breaker session.

Then, the part that everybody was waiting for - dramatic presentation Number One.

Enter Rose and her sex-crazy, chauvinistic husband performed by Trinidadian actor, Hal Greaves.

Greaves promised to prove to the eager students that older people are not always right; they do not know it all. He wanted to show that young people in the Caribbean are bright and can make intelligent decisions and give worthwhile advice.

The few adults in the room were instructed to be silent while the couple acted out a scene that is real in today's world.

Rose, dressed in a green jersey, pretended to be Greaves' wife. And she wanted her grocery money. But her husband told her he had no money after his recent splurge at the `Night Flight' discotheque the night before. After all, he said, a man has to drink and enjoy himself. He liked Shell Shok, too. But alas, it closed.

Naturally, Rose did not agree with her husband and an argument ensued. It turned out that Rose and her husband had problems with their sex life since she could not take the smell of alcohol on his breath. She complained too, that he no longer talked nicely to her.

Flabbergasted that something was wrong with that, he informs Rose that you only `sweet talk' a woman when you meet her for the first time.

As they argued, it came out that Mr Chauvinistic had all sorts of primitive ideas about marriage. He felt that Rose should be beaten to be kept in line.

"That's the husband's role," he told Rose firmly.

The husband's duty is to bring money home...sometimes. And definitely to beat his wife and children whenever possible. A good husband sometimes has to speak loudly to his wife, too.

Mind you, this charming, lovable husband does not want anyone to hit his mother nor his girl child.

A good wife in his book has to cook and fetch his food, wash his clothes and take her blows like any good wife should.

So the Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) talk comes up. Rose feared that her husband could contract HIV/AIDS. He had already had gonorrhea which they had cured. Perhaps she had inherited it and infected him, he suggested. Rose declared that she has no other man in her life. But, she persisted, what about AIDS?

Our macho husband said that he can look at a woman and tell whether she has the virus. Depends on how good she appears, he explained to his wife.

So they argue. One thing moves to another. The upset Rose said that her husband has his 14-year old sister staying at their home and he never speaks to her about anything, especially sex. This same husband tells his eight-year old daughter that babies come on a boat from Suriname.

Shocked again, he replies that children are children and do not have to know anything, especially about sex.

The acting stops and Hal Greaves asks the audience whether the husband or wife is wrong. Everyone pointed at him and said "you" in unison. One youngster told him that he should love his wife and children.

"But I love her!" he shrieked.

Advice offered to him was that he should treat his wife like the first time they met. Respect her, they told him and ask for forgiveness on bended knees.

Declaring that it was not a manly thing to do, especially since real men do not say they are sorry, Rose's husband refused. However, he eventually gave in because he really did not want Rose to go away.

Surprise, surprise! He learnt that Rose was a person with feelings, not just a wife-thing. What he found even more astonishing was the fact that part of the advice given him was to stay away from other women. For a man accustomed to a variety of women on a constant basis, he was not too keen on taking this advice. After all, how can a man be expected to look at a well-shaped torso, a pair of breasts and sculpted legs and not drool? Could it be the macho thing to do, too?

But the young students were adamant. Keep your sex life at home. Or risk contracting STDs and losing your family.

The students agreed that there are quite a lot of men around who behave like the role acted.

Guyanese Dr Tirbani Jagdeo, who is here with Greaves to conduct the workshops, said it is good that the students realised this. But what if they themselves fell into relationships such as the one portrayed? This is something to think about, he said. The students then broke up into groups of threes to think about what they had seen and come up with ways to reach Guyanese children who will one day have such relationships of their own.

Meanwhile, actor Hal Greaves took a breather as he awaited his next drama role in the workshop. Greaves said he does this kind of drama often in Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean to help young people.

Executive Director of the GRPA, Mr Frederick Cox, said the method being used to teach is one that came out of a University in the United States. It is called enter-education. The `enter' is short for `entertainment' and, according to Cox, it gets the message over more effectively. It also stays longer with the students. This is the first time that the GRPA is undertaking such a move, Cox said.

The workshop is funded by the Population Concern organisation based in the United Kingdom. A second workshop is planned for Berbice High School in New Amsterdam. And the topics to be examined are sexual abuse, domestic violence and suicide.