The power of girl talk
THE GIRLS of GAP2 know what they really, really want. They want better sex education and they want it now.
Unimpressed with the lessons they were getting at their schools in Letchworth ("rubbish; too scientific") they decided to start their own course at their girls-only youth club, GAP2 - or Girls Are Powerful Too to give it its full title.
"Everyone had questions about it and was worried about growing up. People were asking questions about puberty. We sat down and decided to do a project about it," says Kirsty Godfrey, 14, one of the group's foundermembers.
In half-a-dozen sessions they have covered puberty, contraception, love and sex and the risks of disease and unprotected sex.
The girls of GAP2 have even produced their own posters and leaflets for other youngsters on contraception and sexually-transmitted diseases. They are also going to visit a family planning centre.
Their hard work has been rewarded with a Pamela Sheridan award for sex education and pound;100 from the Family Planning Association.
Youth workers Krishna Thakur and Jo Brown provide factual information and help lead discussions. If they do not know something they go and find out.
The girls are unimpressed by most of the literature on offer. They say it is too technical and written by adults for older teens.
Curry-flavoured condoms are a major talking point, as are the differences between various brands of contraceptive pill. But so is how to resist pressure from boys to go further than you want.
Indeed, the girls of GAP2 sometimes have a low opinion of the male sex. "Four years behind us in maturity," says Kirsty. "They want to tell their mates everything as well."
"It's like a competition to boys," says Anne-Marie Shaw, 15. "We can talk more openly being a group of girls near the same age. We can tell each other problems we can't tell other people."
The FPA calls the project "peer support", but that fails to convey the lively, even riotous discussions that take place. An hour in their company is as enjoyable and terrifying as being locked in a room with the Spice Girls - except there are more of them and they are all scary.
"We don't like the Spice Girls but we like their slogan - Girl Power," Shaw says.