WHEE hosts women’s health forum, promotes sex ed

Ella West, Staff Writer

Despite the comprehensive nature of St. John’s educational program, there is no true sex education class that teaches girls about women’s health and other issues specifically concerning women.

To help rectify the lack of knowledge some girls at St. John’s may not have concerning their own health, Women Helping and Empower Each Other hosted a forum on Oct. 19 for girls to learn in a safe and judgement-free place. The featured guest speaker was Hillary Boswell, a pediatric/adolescent gynecologist.

Boswell takes part in women’s health programs such as Girlology, where girls and their parents can learn about different types of sexual education issues.

For the past three years, this has been one of WHEE’s most popular and highly-attended meetings. Before this year, Mary Poag (`89), an OB/GYN, led the meetings, but this year, Poag felt that a new voice was needed, according to WHEE sponsor Eleanor Cannon.

“This is something that the leaders thought that we really needed: more information about the whole array of health issues,” Cannon said. “Dr. Boswell talked about everything that affects freshmen all the way up to seniors and people who are about to head of to college. The leaders identified a need, and WHEE did it.”

WHEE has continued with this annual meeting because the officers still believe it is an important issue that has not been properly addressed formally by the school.

“For the underclassmen, this may be the first time they have been face-to-face with an OB/GYN,” junior and WHEE officer Mia Murillo said. “And since we don’t have sex ed, for some of the girls who have been here since middle school, this may be the first time they hear a lot of what she was saying.”

When planning the forum this year, WHEE leaders wanted to create a safe space for girls in the community to talk about their own health.

“We are trying to create a setting where students can ask questions about women’s health and learn how to lead healthy sexual lives without feeling judged by their communities,” sophomore WHEE officer Anne-Charlotte Gillard said. “Because of a lack thereof sexual education at our school, it was really important to have Dr. Boswell come and speak to students to show them that it’s okay and essential to talk about sexual education.”

At the start of the meeting, Boswell gave a presentation about the many issues that pertain to women’s health in the United States, ways to improve women’s health and what her job entails.

“One thing that she said which got to the heart of it, is that young women in high school are at a point in their life when they need to start taking ownership of their own health,” Cannon said. “It is the time where they need to have accurate medical information about when the first time you need to see a gynecologist is [as well as] sexually-transmitted diseases, birth control and periods.”

Students who attended the forum learned useful and enlightening information from Boswell.

“I never really talked about women’s health with anyone before,” freshman Eliot Aiman said. “After the forum I know what I need to do for myself. I didn’t even know what gynecology was when I went into the meeting, but I left with so much newfound information.”