Originally posted on the BBC Media Action blog by Sharif Hossen Saimum on January 9 2017 - Talking about their bodies can be a taboo for young people in Bangladesh. A new series of interactive computer games - accessible in 350 schools - are helping them learn about growing up in a safe and fun environment.
Tania is lost in an enchanted forest. Her only way to escape is to correctly answer questions posed by a collection of exotic animals. First up, a troop of cheeky monkeys, blocks her path. “You shouldn’t eat fish during menstruation - it will make you smell” they say. To gain enough points to leave the forest – Tania must choose whether the monkey’s statements are ‘myth’ or ‘fact’.
‘Tania’s Forest Adventure’ is one of seven new computer games in Bangladesh addressing teenage issues. The initiative is part of a wider project, Generation Breakthrough, using radio and digital tools to help tackle of broad range of issues, including sexual health, gender equality and preventing harassment against women and girls.
Our research tells us teachers and parents, acknowledge a need to educate teenagers about puberty but lack the confidence to raise it with their children. Without open discussion about taboo topics like menstruation or the breaking of a boy’s voice, an information vacuum can develop – leaving young people without adequate knowledge to understand what is happening to their bodies.
“We feel really alone and helpless when puberty starts and can’t talk frankly about teenage issues” said a 15-year boy from Barisal during user-testing. “This type of game helps us learn about the right and wrongs of [growing up] by ourselves.”
When developing the games, we realised it was important not to overload people with information. With their colourful characters, puzzles and animations – the interactive computer games make sure young people have a fun and educational learning experience.
The games – currently accessible from computers in 350 schools in Dhaka, Barisal, Barguna and Patuakhali – are popular amongst boys and girls alike.
“This game is really different. Other games are only for entertainment but this game increased my knowledge as well”, a 13-year old boy from Barguna told us. “I’m playing such a game for the very first time. I really liked it!” said another female test-participant.
Teenagers often have lots of deeply personal questions about changes in their bodies so it was a privilege to help develop the computer games to help provide some answers. I wish there had been something like this when I was growing up.
Image credit: BBC Media Action
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