Why do I keep having wet dreams; is oral sex safe; can antiseptics kill HIV; can the use of tampon by a virgin deflower her or break her hymen; is it normal to abstain from sex or am I an homosexual; I have erections early in the morning, am I normal? These are some of the myriads of questions that any reader of Growing Up will likely find answers to on the pages of the newsletter/magazine. They are the kind of questions that would regularly tug at the heart of any young person. They come with the normal biological, social and emotional challenges of growing up.
Growing Up is not just a magazine. It is a guide. It is a well filtered guide, brewed to taste and to courteously deliver information on the challenges adolescents face. As a teenager, it was a genuine cause for delight to have a copy. I recall instances where I and my friends had to sensibly keep our copy for fear of losing it. Back then, it was not the kind of publication that had extra copies. Given the number of schools that copies were sent to, the number of people who subscribed via post (yes, the year was 2001 and new media was yet to become pervasive) and the number of students who thronged the youth centre on daily basis and also wanted a copy, it was difficult to lay hands on a spare copy. The quarterly publication was almost always near exhaustion few days after it was in print.
Any reader who got a copy did the obvious – raced through the publication by flipping through the pages and flipping back to finally rest on his or her favourite page. The cover story expectedly never fails to arrest attention given the in-depth analysis it does on the subject of interest. I recall the April, 2001 edition titled ? Combating the HIV/AIDS Scourge. It was a decent effort on intimating young people about HIV/AIDS and the interview with Ishaya Kabati, a young person living with HIV/AIDS was the real McCoy. It was my first time of reading a young person’s story on the subject. One also does not forget in a hurry the cartooning that had a signature “D.D Onu” tucked at a corner on the page. The cartoons were also apt and I was always amused at how the cartoonist ensured that the cartoons for each edition were always in consonance with the cover story.
My favourite was Dear Diary. It is a fictional account of an adolescent diary writer who tries to capture daily living
and reveals to readers the challenges of growing up that most young people face and also details possible solutions to them. The beauty of Dear Diary that I knew back then was the prose style coupled with the suspense that each edition brought with it. Its sign-off pitch was always – I’ll tell you what happened in the next edition. And it never failed to deliver on that.
The vox-pop, career guide poems, newsreel, rights page are part of what makes the publication pulsate. One particular edition previous readers would not forget in a hurry is that of June 2000. Its cover page had Moji Onifade (whom I think was the first writer of Dear Diary) and Joel Okani as the models and it had as the lead rider – All you need to know about puberty. Typical of the core values held by the publisher, Action Health Incorporated, the edition bared all about the male and female reproductive organs in easy to understand texts and with pictures to match. It allowed for clear understanding of issues that most parents were always shy of discussing with their teenagers and adolescents.
The newsletter/magazine evolved during my close contact with it as new pages and columns were introduced following Focus Group Discussions with young people who formed the bulk of the readership. It was through the newsletter and information by a friend at the AHI youth centre that I came to know about the Youth Skills Development Programme in 2000; a year after, I became a youth assistant. I recall how delighted I was when my poem – Third World War was published in the June 2001 edition of the publication.
Growing Up is easy to understand given the reader friendly language and it’s also easy to recognise by the trademark subscription envelope design at the backpage. I reminisce with quickness of memory and perception that 54, Somorin Street, Ifako-Gbagada, Lagos, AHI’s former office, was more than just an address, it was asides other memorable things, the sanctuary from where Growing Up was literally rightly served.
‘Sola Fagorusi, a former youth assistant with Action Health Incorporated contributed this review of the Growing Up Magazine. He is currently the programmes manager of OneLife Initiative and columnist with the Punch Newspaper, he tweets @SolaFagro