Straight talking educates teens about early parenthood
Teenage mothers and young fathers deliver courses in secondary schools to enable pupils to relate to the complex issues of teenage pregnancy.
Rarely do students find healthy and supportive opportunities to speak about teenage pregnancy and exploitation. That is exactly what the UK-based charity Straight Talking seeks to change. Straight Talking is a peer-education program that enables youth to learn about teen pregnancy, sexual exploitation, and healthy relationships from the people who understand the topic best - young mothers and fathers.
The vision of the organization is to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK. It also seeks to increase economic well-being and quality of life for teenage parents.
Straight talking has been operating since 1998. In the last academic year alone, the organization has reached an estimated 9,000 students by delivering 340 courses, mostly in London and the West Midlands. Through this work, they have also employed 44 teenage mothers and fathers.
The organization reaches its goals through two primary programs: The Prevention Project and The Education and Employment Project. The Prevention Project is made up of two peer education courses that focus on 1. the realities of teenage pregnancy and 2. understanding healthy relationships, awareness of sexual exploitation, and sexting.
The courses are delivered to students ages 13-17, include interactive games and activities, and are taught by trained peer educators. Most importantly, courses are designed to create a safe environment for students to talk openly and comfortably with those who have first-hand experiences.
The Education and Employment Project trains and employs teen parents to speak effectively about their experiences, as well as help develop and improve content. The program enables peer-educators to develop a wide range of transferable skills, increasing their qualifications for a wider job market.
As the website notes: “Our young parents have gone on to university and successful careers as a result of the confidence, encouragement and skills learned at Straight Talking.”
Tara, an ex-peer educator says “if it hadn’t been for Straight Talking, I would still be sitting at home claiming Benefits.”
The organization explains that “all peer educators join a community of young parents who give support to each other. Last academic year, 100% of our young parents said they now felt less isolated.”
And Straight Talking is producing results. A study shows that 50 percent of students who had thought teenage pregnancy was ‘acceptable’ changed their minds after taking the workshop.
When students hear and engage with real-life scenarios surrounding teenage pregnancy and sexting, they can begin to make informed decisions regarding their own personal lives.