Learning the Facts of Life: Past and Present Experiences in a Rural Tanzanian Community
Abstract

This article explores the meaning and place of "traditional" forms of sex education within the cultural and historical context of the Shinyanga Region of west central Tanzania. Although structured puberty initiation rituals may have been an important source of information about sexuality and reproduction for Tanzanian adolescents in the past, such rituals were not common to all Tanzanian settings. The Shinyanga Region is a case in point. Drawing upon the anthropological and sociological literature for west central Tanzania, as well my ethnographic fieldwork in a small, rural community from 1992 to 1994, I explore answers to several interrelated questions: How did young women who lived in this geographic setting learn about sexuality and reproduction in the past? Did instruction about such matters consist of practices that were uniform and structured events, or was information passed on in a less uniform, nonstructured way? Would a revival of these practices, whatever their form, benefit young women today?


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