MEET THE MUSE: Conversations with Teen Muse Lauren Hough
What inspired you to travel to Zambia with World Muse?
Initially I was hesitant to go on the trip. I worried that the impact I would have as a young, white woman wouldn’t be well received and would feel meaningless. However what really kicked-started the wheels in my brain to go on the trip was hearing from Alice and Amy about their experiences working with girls in Zambia. Through Alice’s personal story I gained a better understanding of the situations and issues present in Zambia, and through Amy’s work I saw the ways that through listening and talking we could help bring awareness of the problems girls in Zambia are struggling with to both Zambia and the U.S.. Also, consistently talking to Amanda throughout the year about her experience kept the inspiration alive.
I learned that girls in rural Zambia were facing some issues that are incredibly similar to issues girls in the U.S. face. In rural Zambia however, there was still a concern of child marriage due to a cultural more and in many cases a lack of money needed to get a higher education. With the girls we met, marriage and young motherhood was not apart of their future plans- with almost all of them wanting to pursue careers that required higher education and in-depth training. So while child marriage isn’t a big concern for most American girls, both countries place huge taboos on menstruation, teenage sex (as well as sex in general), and contraception. I found that while there was access to free birth control in clinics there, it wasn’t made easy to get. There were a lot of scary steps a girl would have to take to just to get to the birth control including getting parental consent in some cases, and asking a male supervisor for permission. But at home, I see girls struggle with finding birth control all the time. Although we are so lucky to have clinics like Planned Parenthood, there are still a number of factors that lead to girls not actually getting the protection they need. Similarly, both America’s and Zambia’s cultures have huge taboos surrounding periods. In the rural lower Zambezi however, getting pads are often too expensive and so girls miss school for bleeding. Although access to menstrual products might not be as big of an issue in America, girls at school definitely feel the pressure of the period taboo- having to miss school for cramps, hiding tampons up their sleeve as they go to the bathroom during class, going home to change their clothes when they bleed through. To me, it’s interesting to see how across cultures taboos are consistently placed on natural bodily processes like periods and sex.
Was there a special moment that had an impact on you?
One of the most impactful moments for me was meeting with the girls in the Chiawa upper school to give out the Thinx period panties and then discuss sex, periods, and birth control with them.
This trip was important because it gave me the opportunity to create bonds with so many different walks of life. Whether that’s with the school girls, the other teens or adults on the trip, our guides, or the radiant animals, some sort of connection was made. Once connections like those are sealed in your mind it’s hard to break them.
How has the experience changed you or shifted a belief about yourself or the world?
I think this trip gave me the opportunity to see how the effects of being positive and present in every situation pay off. I watched humans connect on many different levels and was able to see through that the joy those connections put out into the world.
How will you utilize what you learned on this trip?
Why should someone else go on this trip?
Go on this trip to listen, talk, and understand other people and cultures. For me one of the best ways we create peace is through positive communication and sharing of what we’ve learned from our experiences.
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