Cover Image
close this bookMezzo: For Young People by Young People (IPPF, 1997, 52 p.)
close this folderLIFESTYLE
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAre you a number? All around the world, how different are we?
View the documentWhat is a friend? By the way, do you feel like an alien too?
View the documentSex. What does it mean to you?


Poster produced by CONASIDA, Mexico, as part of their AIDS prevention programme

The golden age

Are you a number? All around the world, how different are we?

All over the world, we look different, we live in different places - some of us in the cities, some of us in rural areas - we feel different, we wear different clothes, we have different beliefs, we speak different languages and do different things. We live in different ways. Some of us still live at home, while others can hardly find shelter and have to sleep in the street. Being young means something different in different parts of the world.

In Pakistan you might be working for 12 hours a day when you are 14, whilst in Australia you might be still at school when you are 20. A girl in Sweden might have her first serious relationship when she is 22, whilst a young woman of the same age in India may have been married for eight years. She might have already started a family of her own.

There are more than 1.5 billion young people in the world between the age of 10 and 24. That's one-third of the population. In some countries, more than half the population is under 18.

So are we unique? Despite all the differences we have quite a lot in common.

We all go through the same physical changes. For many of us this is also a time of emotional changes; we may feel different from before, no longer a child, but not quite an adult.

Think the people who need to be educated are parents and teachers. They should discard their old beliefs and start informing their kids about sex and its complexities. To talk to your kid about sex doesn't mean that you are encouraging them to have sex. Instead it helps then sieve through the information they get from friends, allowing them to decide what is wrong and what is right."
22, M, Cameroon

"I think all the sex education that's going on right now, like STD and contraceptives education, is a good idea, but I think we should be taught something else also. Sex is net a game, ifs something special. They should teach how it's different for each individual."
18. F, USA

The period of being young can be a time of having fun and enjoying life, a period of trying to be like adults. taking risks and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Sex can be a part of that.

Sex is an important issue for many of us. Most young people in the world many later than their parents did and many have sex before marriage.

Some people think that these days young people start to have sex at younger age than they did - this is not really true. Many young people are not sexually active at all before they are married.

Sex, relationships, love and friendship are issues that are never far from our thoughts. It is said that guys think or sex and relationships every nine minutes (and girls probably do the same).

! There is no universally accepted definition of young people: the United Nations refers only to childhood (up to 18 years) when they talk about young people; the World Health Organization refers to the age span of 10-24 years when they mention young people: in western societies they like to use the world adolescence - early adolescence is from 10-14 year; and late adolescence from 16-19.


Despite run differences, we all face similar problems when we are young such as choosing a partner or deciding whether to start a sexual relationship...

We should have forums where young people come together, where people talk openly, without an adult, and share their ideas. But there has to be knowledgeable people around, to correct the misconceptions."
19, F, Japan

"Sex education should not be treated like some kind of fashion, here today, gone tomorrow. People should realize that a lot of people need to be made aware of what sex is all about. The good and the bad things it brings. Adults should change their attitudes towards the subject and teach their offspring from a young age because it is their children's lives at stake."
21, M, Lesotho

"Sex education should be made interesting so that young people like as who talk about sex with oar friends will be Interested. We should be given good enough reasons to keep away from sex until the right moment."
16, F, Sri Lanka

! There are over 1.5 billion people between the age of 10 and 24, By 2025, there are expected to be almost 2 billion people in this age group.

! Eight out of 10 young people below the age of 20 are sexually experienced in sub-Saharan Africa, as are 7 out of 10 teenagers in many developed countries and at least half of all teens in Latin America.

! One in every 10 births worldwide each year is to teenage mothers.

! Puberty occurs earlier and the average age at marriage is rising. This means that young people today face a longer period of time during which they are sexually mature and may be sexually active but pregnancy may be neither desired nor socially acceptable.



The world

What is a friend? By the way, do you feel like an alien too?



"I sometimes feel like a know-it-all, Adults have got this ideology that young people are being rude if they express their thoughts, so sometimes I just feel like a stray, an alien."
21, M, Botswana

"My father is OK, but I don't see him very often. My mother is too obsessive; she wants to know everything, I am sure she will tell her best friends about anything I confide in her."
16, F, Netherlands

"It's not cool Parents don't understand; they act tike they've never done anything wrong,"
14, M, USA

"I get mad if they don't listen to me."
19, F, Latvia

"I'll be embarrassed talking to adults. In their 30s because there's an age barrier. To them, we are ignorant about sex so most of the time they do not listen to us."
20. F. Singapore

"There's a Chinese saying that says, the older the ginger, the hotter it is (meaning the older they are, the wiser they are). When we start talking about sex, adults reject us,"
23, M, Singapore

"Personally I think it's really good If you can tell adults what you feel, as long as you aren't being disrespectful to them or anything."
15, F, Sri Lanka

"Opening up to adults is quite tough and has always been, but I feel it is important as you not only learn from them bat they from you too."
20, F, Zambia

"I normally feel ashamed, mainly because our Lesotho culture is often against the idea that you can say whatever you think to adults."
19, M, Lesotho



"Have trust. Trust is huge in any friendship - gotta have this before anything else."
17, F, New Zealand

In my experience, the strongest friendship comes after initial hatred or embarrassment,"
22, M, Sudan

"When they give me their trust and they show me that they can stay with me during the good and bad times."
18, F, Mexico

"I consider the person who defends me in my absence a friend."
20, M, Jordan

"A friend is someone who stands up for you no matter what."
19, F, Japan

I consider someone to be a friend when we exchange plans, whether in good or bad times, when he/she really fells sorry or happy for me in good or bad times, whether I am sick or well, whether I am poor or rich, when he/she shows me that he/she cares."
22, F, Uganda

Someone who is not seasonal but an all seasons friend. One who is there when needed and in need, one who helps me solve problems."
18, F, Zambia

"When I finally realize that the other person knows me quite well (even the bad part) and loves me in spite of it all."
16, F, Sri Lanka

When he/she appreciates who I am." 22, M, Zambia

"I would consider a close friend to be someone that I have known for a long time and feel completely at ease with. Someone whom I could talk to about anything, and it is crucial that I can trust him."
19, M, UK

"When I feel I can count on them always and trust them to be there for both good and bad times. Someone to whom I can say anything without worrying about how they'll take it. Basically someone with whom I share a mutual understanding."
24, F, Lesotho


Poster produced by the Ministry for Public Health, Burundi, as part of their AIDS programme

Sex. What does it mean to you?

"Sex is not a game"


It can mean different things to different people. Sex can be an expression of love and affection. Or it can simply be about having fun with someone you're attracted to. It can be sacred, something that belongs only to marriage. For many of us, sex is not important at all. Not everyone wants to have sex and not everyone believes that they should. Many people worry about sex - some people feel that if they're not having sex, they're missing out, whilst others fear pregnancy and diseases or simply fear sex. Deciding what sex means to you isn't always easy. But, providing you know how to keep it safe, it does not have to be frightening at all. And if you do know what sex means to you, it can be wild and exciting, caring and romantic, but above all enjoyable and rewarding.

love ¹ lust

Being physically or sexually attracted to a person doesn't imply that you love that person. On the other hand if you love a person you don't always need to express your love in a physical or sexual way. There are many other ways of showing your love and affection,

sex ¹ intercourse

It would be rather boring if sex was only about intercourse. Sex or having sex can involve many more things, from fantasies, to exploring each other, to all kinds of touching and bodily contact.

sex ¹ spontaneous

In the movies and on TV, everything seems to be so easy - you meet someone, you fall in love and you have great sex. The reality is often different. Sex or having sex is just like many other things in life, something you have to learn.

You may get disappointed if you think that everything will be perfect from the beginning.


"Young people should know about chastity from a sexual point of view and how to resist strong sexual desire. I think that a belief in God and religion would protect young people from the instigation of the devil. I would advise them to keep away from anything that could arouse their sexual desire."

21, M, Lebanon

Do you have to be in love with someone before having sex?


"To establish a sexual relationship, I would trust someone more who is in love with me, and not someone who just has a physical attraction."

19, F, Mexico

"Love gives more enjoyment to sex and makes the relationship deeper and more meaningful."

21, M, Iraq

"Of course you have to feel something for that person but it does not necessarily have to be love, it can be desire."

17, F, Mexico

"Love is a precondition for a sexual relationship. Otherwise it would be a kind of prostitution."

23, F, Syria

"I don't think you have to necessarily be in love with someone before starting a sexual relationship. It's not easy to be sure when you are in love with someone. Sometimes the sex can help determine it because it suggests you have allowed yourself to trust him with your most valuable asset - your body."

22, F, Lesotho

"I feel that the media sometimes projects that you have to be in love with someone before starting a sexual relationship, but sometimes it's hard when you get caught up in the moment, although I would like to think that love is important."

17, F, UK

"A sexual relationship cannot exist without love. but love can exist without sex."

21, F, Syria

Can you enjoy sex for its own sake?


"If I didn't enjoy sex it would be due to my lover's lack of knowledge and competence."

24, F, Morocco

"You should know how to go about sex. You should also bear in mind that it should be enjoyable to both partners and not to one."

21, M, Zambia

"Sex is one of the most important instincts. A young man must know everything about it to draw the benefits and avoid any harm. The knowledge should come from trustworthy sources."

21, M, Iraq

Is it okay to have sex before marriage?


"It's normal to have sex before marriage, as long as you are serious and take preventive measures."

18, F, Russia

"Personally I think premarital sex is important because it is good for the relationship. I am prudish about casual sex because of my upbringing. I tell my friends to be safe at all times. As long as ifs safe..."

21, M, USA

"Premarital sex is not good because one has to get married being a virgin."

20, M, Cameroon

"Sex should be associated with love. It shouldn't be like a

19, M, USA

"Premarital sex is a wonderful idea. You wouldn't buy a car without a test drive would you? Sex is fundamental to marriage; without a good sex life, failure in marriage is guaranteed."

21, M, UK

"I think it is normal nowadays for people to have sex before marriage, therefore I would not condemn anyone or despise anyone who does that."

22, M, Lesotho

"I believe in sex before marriage as long as the individual feels ready. Sex is a very personal, bonding experience. People should know what they are getting into."

19, F, UK

"Sex before marriage is unthinkable."

25, F, Bangladesh

"Premarital sexual relations are necessary because there is no sex education available."

20, M, Syria


"I'd be surprised if a person wasn't interested in sex because that's the one thing everyone wants to know about, especially when you're young."