Rwandan young people's perceptions on sexuality and relationships: Results from a qualitative study using the ‘mailbox technique’

Case Studies & Research
10 p.
Periodical title
SAHARA-J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, 11(1), 51-60

This study aimed to gain more insight into young Rwandans' perceptions on sex and relationships, which is essential for formulating effective sexual and reproductive health (SRH) promotion interventions. Using a 'mailbox technique', this paper studies the spontaneous thoughts of Rwandan young people on sexuality. Mailboxes were installed in five secondary schools in the Bugesera district and students were invited to write about their ideas, secrets, wishes, desires and fears on sexuality and relationships. Of the 186 letters collected, 154 addressed SRH topics. The letters were analysed in NVivo 9 using a theoretical model on vulnerability. Two stereotypical sexual interactions co-exist: experimental sex, taking place unprepared, driven by desire among young people of the same age, and transactional sex, occurring after negotiation between older men/women and younger girls/boys in exchange for money or goods. Both types expose young people to poor, though different, SRH outcomes. Young people have little capacity to manage their vulnerability in these relationships: they have limited knowledge on SRH topics, lack adult guidance or support and have difficult access to condoms. They apply seemingly contradictory norms and behaviours concerning sexuality. In conclusion, we have formulated several recommendations for SRH interventions.

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