The project facilitates collaborative partnerships with adolescents with the aim of developing coping strategies and behavioural life skills that will help young people remain in control of their behaviour. The Straight Talk concept is built on the tenet that youth need information on sexuality and reproductive health so as to be able to make informed decisions about their health and lives. At the core of all Straight Talk activities is youth participation as a strategy. The Straight Talk Editorial Board is comprised of 4 boys and 4 girls who meet twice per month with adults from the STFK. Along with their peers, these adolescents guide and develop Straight Talk media as part of an interactive and participatory structure has greatly contributed to its popularity.
Specifically, the Straight Talk Newspaper is produced by and for young people ages 15 to 19. The paper is published in Sheng, a popular patois of KiSwahili and English, and addresses topics generally not found in daily newspapers, such as sexual abuse, pregnancy, homosexuality, masturbation and gender inequality. Personal reflections – e.g., whether or not to disclose an episode of sexual abuse to one’s family and/or to get tested to find out whether HIV/AIDS was contracted as a result – are also incorporated into the newspaper’s articles, columns, question-and-answer interviews, and cartoons. The paper’s “Please Advise” column enables adolescents to respond to questions from their peers. We seek to empower the students themselves to raise as many questions as possible. Each month, about 360,000 copies of the newspaper are produced, 300,000 of which are inserted in issues of The Nation, Kenya’s largest daily newspaper (STFK will distribute the remaining 60,000 copies through schools, youth-serving organisations, and partners). Archived issues of the newsletter may be accessed on the Straight Talk website.
Straight Talk Clubs, each with an average of 35 students, aim to help improve adolescent health by fostering peer-to-peer discussion of HIV, by encouraging youth to share opinions about and experiences with confronting high-risk situations, and by helping them develop behaviour-negotiation skills through role-playing activities. Hosted within schools across the country, Straight Talk Clubs discuss issues raised in the newspaper, hear guest speakers, visit health centres and the disabled, and engage in community service projects. One goal is to increase dialogue between adolescents and teachers, and between adolescents and their parents.
Straight Talk has developed a training programme to prepare teachers and youth workers who run the Straight Talk Clubs to handle adolescents’ sexuality and reproductive health concerns with sensitivity. The training format is a 2-week class on group management and facilitation that includes peer education and HIV information.
To reinforce the messages shared through the Straight Talk newspaper and the clubs, a 30-minute radio programme is broadcast on KBC English Service on Saturday mornings from 11-11:30 a.m. The theme and focus of the programme is determined by the adolescent editorial board. The programme emphasises first-hand opinions and experiences of adolescents and introduces role-playing scenarios.