Jill Biden talks safe sex, condoms with Kenya’s young adults

NAIROBI, Kenya — It was a learning Saturday for the First Lady of the United States Jill Biden in Kenya.

She praised young adults for learning safe sex and dating practices, attended a meeting of women who started their own banking system, and spoke with local entrepreneurs who have been helped by a program that connects tractor owners and farmers.

All three programs aim to help women and young people take control of their lives so they can support themselves and their families. Biden highlighted U.S.-backed efforts to empower these groups during a five-day visit to two countries in Africa this week.

“These are issues that everyone really needs to talk about and yet somehow they don’t, and the consequences of not talking about them are so dire,” Biden told dozens of young people after talking with them about safer sex, condoms. use and birth control at the Shujaaz Konnect Festival, a local youth empowerment event. “So I like seeing the young people here.”

In a tent where the young people were having networking-type conversations, they showed her a quiz they use to stimulate discussion. The first question: “What would you say if I told you that I have a condom in my pocket right now?”

Biden laughed. “And this is the first time they’ve met?” she asked.

A representative from Shujaaz said such direct offers help teenagers and young adults overcome their shyness, saying that it is sometimes easier to ask such questions of strangers.

“I’m surprised you don’t start with ‘What is your greatest achievement?’ rather than ‘I have a condom in my pocket,'” the first lady said.

The festival is a collaboration with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which works with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to help teach young Kenyans how to avoid being infected with HIV, which causes AIDS.

Biden, who is on the fourth day of his five-day trip to Namibia and Kenya, spent the week promoting HIV/AIDS education programs and initiatives that teach women and young people the skills they need to find a job or start a business.

His visit is part of a commitment by the President Joe Biden to deepen U.S. engagement with nations in Africa, many of whom feel neglected by the United States. Part of that effort is also to counter China’s influence on the mainland that Beijing has gained through increased trade and spending on roads and other public works projects.

Biden was due to end his visit by traveling to an area near the Kenya-Tanzania border on Sunday to raise awareness about a severe drought that is endangering lives and livelihoods.

Earlier on Saturday, the first lady visited a government community center in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, to attend a meeting of women small business owners who are participating in the Joyful Women programme. Founded in 2009 by Rachel Ruto, the First Lady of Kenya, the program promotes economic empowerment and financial inclusion for women.

Participants create “banking table” groups, pooling their resources so they can lend each other money they cannot get from traditional banks. Some of the women used the loans to start businesses. One woman said she opened a daycare.

“It’s pretty ingenious that women have found a way to support other women, uplift them and increase the economic prosperity of families, isn’t it?” said Biden, who visited a different empowerment program during a 2010 stopover in Kibera.

“I always taught my own daughter and granddaughter the importance of being financially independent and so now here you have found a way to create your own banking system which is pretty amazing,” Biden said. Her granddaughter, Naomi, 29, sat nearby.

Before sitting at the table, Biden was wrapped from the waist down in an apron-like cloth known as a leso or kanga that women wear at home.

At a separate event, Biden spoke with local entrepreneurs, small farmers and others who have been helped by Hello Tractor, which connects tractor owners with farmers in need of machinery.

The first lady also laid a wreath at August 7 Memorial Park to honor those killed in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 200 people were killed, including 12 Americans. More than 4,500 people were injured.

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