In 2021, there has to be an even greater push to make sure that African women can access better and accurate information, so that they can maintain their sexual and reproductive health. Beyond having access to contraception, African women and all women in general also need to be educated about birth control and their options for usage. Women’s control over their own bodies is central to achieving gender equality, and denying or limiting women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights has devastating consequences for their lives, and repercussions for their families and communities.

In my opinion, the sexual and reproductive health of many African women has been compromised due to experiences of patriarchy, plus everyday cultural settings that perceive sexual discussions as inappropriate. Having no access to the right information on contraception for many girls and women can mean having unwanted children, and with a lack of sexual and reproductive health services leading up to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, says Dr. Jefferson in this article. Teakisi supports the rights of women and girls around the world to claim their full range of sexual and reproductive rights, and we challenge practices that deny them control over their own bodies. 

Right here in Newcastle where I live, I learned of a perfect organisation where all women could go to access information on such matters. The organisation I’m talking about is SHINE – which stands for Sexual Health in Newcastle.

What’s the deal with SHINE?

SHINE are a sexual health service for women, run by women and works right across the Newcastle city, with ALL women. So whatever your background or whatever sexual health needs you need, they are the right people to go to for help. As part of Newcastle Council Public Health and usually based at the Civic Centre in Newcastle, they are right in the centre of the town, which means they are very accessible, whether you are using public transport or your own vehicle.

By visiting SHINE, you will be able to receive good sexual and reproductive health, which means having a safe and fulfilling sex life. This also means you getting to talk about sexual health with an organisation set up for just that, which then makes it easier to also talk about the not so good of it. SHINE also provides access to free Do It Yourself (DIY) Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) tests, pregnancy tests, condoms and period products. More of examples of their work include help around healthy relationships, including Domestic and Sexual Abuse, a woman’s rights within a relationship, pleasure and also FGM. They also work with women who have been sexually exploited and women who are involved in the adult sex industry. Whats more reassuring is that SHINE know that everyone is different, and that we all have different needs.

From today and for the rest of the week, SHINE will be taking part and campaigning to raise awareness for the HIV Prevention England (HPE), which is the national HIV prevention programme for England. These tests are free and confidential. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will have a strong focus on promoting HIV testing at home.

Before the pandemic, SHINE would usually meet people (if they wished) wherever they were comfortable – be it in the community or wherever they would choose, including at home where its most convenient for some. The organisation is currently posting tests out to an address of your choice, something they will carry on doing post pandemic. This doesn’t have to be your home address. Also if you like, you could collect in confidence from the reception of the Civic Centre, and no one will know what is being collected. SHINE can also carry on providing ongoing support to you or just one call, or email.

We live in a world that is so busy, but one should always remember to put their health first. My fellow women in Newcastle, please make time to contact SHINE with a guarantee of getting clear advice which is crucial. Nothing beats one being able to choose from a range of contraceptive options without facing stigma or discrimination. Like I mentioned earlier, the organisation is very flexible with how it works with people, mostly importantly they are led by you, whether it is through one to one support or groups of women.

What’s their target audience?

SHINE’s services are for ALL women from ALL backgrounds and ALL ages over 16 who are in Newcastle. The organisation will not judge you, so when you visit them, please feel free to talk about anything that you might be concerned with. They also understand that it can be really hard for one to talk about their bodies, sex and relationships. What’s more, all their services are confidential – which means that everything you discuss will not be passed on or shared with anyone without your consent – unless you or someone else is at risk of serious harm and in need of protection. What’s even better, SHINE will always try and discuss this with you first.

Want to get in touch?

If you are a woman from Newcastle, you can contact them via their website, or by telephone on 01912772050. SHINE is also on the following social media sites; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and if social media isn’t for you, you can contact them through email. Unfortunately due to the current coronavirus pandemic, SHINE is not able to meet people face to face but hopefully soon.

What else?

SHINE also works closely with lots of other services in Newcastle and beyond, and helps women find other sources of information and support. That is why they would like to hear from you, our readers – about what is important to you and to know how you would like to access your sexual health information.