Sex-Ed Murals Depict Boners, Butts — And MonogamyS

In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, students have helped create a new kind of sex ed: murals that warn of the dangers of unprotected sex, pervy teachers, and "big mamas."

According to Iva Skoch of the Global Post, health organization PSI asked secondary students in Dar Es Salaam to list behaviors that spread AIDS. Then they painted the most commonly mentioned ones on a wall outside the Jangwani Secondary School. The murals have caught on, and other groups in Tanzania are considering using this form of sex ed. PSI program manager Alex Ngaiza says they're more effective than photos: "If you use a photograph, people don't identify with the person. They will say, ‘Oh, it's just that man. He's got HIV. Not me.' But with a mural, everyone can relate."

Some of the images are pretty conservative — like one that advises students to "stop dirty thoughts" (accompanied by thought bubble of a woman's butt). Others, however, are surprisingly frank, like one depicting a teacher lusting after a schoolgirl (slogan: "stop sexual corruption"). Acknowledging the problem of sexual harassment by teachers — on a mural painted outside a school, no less — is pretty progressive, especially for a country where, according to Skoch, families often don't discuss sex at home.

The murals differ from some comprehensive sex ed campaigns in their emphasis on self-control and behavior, rather than safe sex. None Just one of them shows a condom — although one depicts a woman pushing away a man under the headline "Be safe" (in keeping with the mix of frankness and conservatism, the guy's wearing underwear but has an obvious boner). Instead, the murals extol monogamy and decry temptation — one in particular shows a man walking with one woman, but ogling another with a bigger butt. The message is "Be satisfied with what you have," or, as one student says, "do not let you heart get tempted by the big mamas."

This anti-temptation message is similar to that of some abstinence-only campaigns — which, at least in the US, don't work very well. But PSI's approach is different from that of many abstinence-only programs in that it started with students themselves, by asking them about their concerns. It was by actually talking to students that the campaign decided to depict teacher harassment, for instance — a problem they might easily have overlooked if they'd used a more top-down approach. Not all of the PSI messages would be effective in every setting, but the murals do teach an important lesson: when running a public health campaign, try actually consulting the people you're trying to help.

Wanderlust: Sex Ed, In Pictures [Global Post]

Image via Global Post