THIS weekend’s feminine health summit is a dream come true, literally, for Antwonette Bulloch.
Bulloch is the Adolescent Health and Youth Development Coordinator for the Georgia Coastal Health District, a job that most definitely comes home with her.
“I was sleeping and this came to me in a dream,” laughs Bulloch. “I spoke to my supervisor about it and she said we could pull it off, and we’ve been working to get this pulled off and executed.”
“Because Girls Matter, Period: Teenage Feminine Education Summit” takes place Saturday, June 15 at the Clyde Venue. The event is free and open to young ladies through middle and high school and includes breakfast and lunch.
Bulloch goes to organizations and schools in eight counties to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health, so she sees firsthand the need for more comprehensive curriculums.
“What I’ve been noticing a lot is that a lot of young ladies, and young men, don’t know a lot about basic anatomy or how their reproductive organs even work,” says Bulloch. “So, when we’re talking about contracting STIs or teen pregnancy, we have to go back to the core of things, because we’re being counterproductive if [the girls] don’t know the basics.”
“We’re focusing on young ladies because we want to empower them to be able to make healthier decisions in regards to their sexual health,” says Bulloch. “And the way we do that is by making the conversation about sexual health and reproductive health not as uncomfortable as it currently is.”
Bulloch is absolutely right—nobody looks forward to having The Talk. But it’s important to be open with young people about their bodies because clouding language about our bodies leads to confusion and shame.
“I do a lot of talks with parents, and one of the things I tell parents is, ‘You have to start normalizing genitalia,’” Bulloch says. “Just like we teach our kids about their eyes, their ears, their head, we have to teach them about their vulvas, their penises. And it’s a way to promote healthy living in regards to sexual health, but also to delay the onset of sexual activity, as well as allowing our kids to feel empowered and have the knowledge to be able to make safer and more responsible sexual decisions.”
Another benefit of being sexually literate is being able to speak clearly with doctors about your symptoms, ensuring proper care.
“This conversation doesn’t just stay in this workshop. It goes back home with them,” says Bulloch. “They’ll have more questions that they would like to ask their pediatricians or feel a little bit more comfortable when they’re going to doctor’s appointments, because now they know exactly how their body works and what’s supposed to happen and what’s not supposed to happen.”
At the summit, the girls will be able to ask adults any questions they previously had.
“They’ll have an open forum to ask any questions in regards to their sexual health that they’ve wanted to ask parents or other adults,” says Bulloch. “We have an open space for them to do so and not feel judged.”
Bulloch acknowledges how uncomfortable this topic can be—she even hired a DJ to help take the edge off—but the plan for the day is to be fun, approachable, and interactive.
“The goal of this summit is, instead of focusing on the serious consequences of risky behaviors, our plan is to take our time and build curiosity and interest and allow our young ladies to actually work through the subject matter themselves through interactive workshops,” says Bulloch. “We also want to provide accurate mental health information in regards to sexuality, growth and development, and anatomy through a teen pregnancy prevention maze.”
In the teen pregnancy prevention maze, the girls have the opportunity to wear empathy bellies through an obstacle course of everyday things and feel contraction pain through a simulator. The girls will also learn about actual labor and participate in an obstacle course for everything a teen mother has to do with an infant in tow.
“They’ll have a realistic view of what it’s like to be a teen mom,” says Bulloch, “and when it’s over, we’ll also talk about their options. If you’re not totally prepared for motherhood right now, which we hope you aren’t, what are some ways we can protect ourselves outside of the 100% way, which is abstinence?”
Bulloch hopes the event is successful enough that she can host summits in all eight counties she serves, as well as summits for boys.
“[It’s] not just to teach them about their anatomy, but to teach them about women’s anatomy,” she says. “The more young men know about how magical women are, the more they’re likely to respect us and respect our bodies.”