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Mobile App Breaks Sex Taboos In Cameroon

By Ngala Chimtom in Yaounde and Kristin Palitza in Cape Town
dpa, Berlin

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A young Cameroonian entrepreneur has developed a mobile app that allows users to ask questions about sexual and reproductive health anonymously — with “sexperts” providing swift answers at the other end. The technology could change the lives of many young women in the West African nation and around the world.

YAOUNDE

Talking to their daughter about sex was never an option for Valerie Akaba’s parents. Like many children in conservative Cameroon, where sexuality is considered a taboo, Valerie entered puberty clueless about the changes in her body.

She thought menstruation was at best a shame, at worst an illness. At the age of 15, Valerie fell pregnant.

“I was four months pregnant and didn’t even know it. The menstruation had stopped, and I thought I had been miraculously cured of a sort of disease,” the young woman remembers three years later.

The taboo deprived Valerie of basic but vital information she needed to make informed choices about her sexual health. When she opted for an illegal abortion, she almost lost her life.

About 40 per cent of pregnancies in Cameroon are unintended, with more than a third ending in unsafe abortions, according to a 2014 report by research organization Guttmacher Institute in the United States. Almost 15 per cent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have been pregnant at least once in the West African nation.

Teenagers also know little about HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive rights or even simply about sex itself.

To address this issue, a young Cameroonian entrepreneur, Mallah Tabot, developed a mobile application that allows users to ask questions about sexual and reproductive health anonymously — with “sexperts” providing swift answers at the other end.

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