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McCann hack maths to promote sex education in Peru's public schools

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According to a 2013 UNICEF study, 15 out of every 100 teenage girls in Peru under 16 are mothers, and the average age for first sexual activity is between 15 and 17 years old in urban areas; in rural areas the age drops to 10-14 years of age. To address this situation and the social, economic and family issues that surround it, and to take direct aim at the problem of teenage pregnancy, Save the Children Peru partnered with McCann Lima to create Proble + Reales (“Real Problems”), an educational platform that seeks to minimise disinformation around teen pregnancy — using classroom subjects to make the information more familiar.

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McCann Lima created the idea of “hacking” ordinary math problems to turn them into a medium to sex education by using traditional objects, such as fruits and household objects, to replace elements associated with pregnancy and childbirth, such as diapers and bibs. Presented on the website and in printed promotional kits (flyers and leaflets with suggested exercises), the initiative was activated both among students and teachers in the Peruvian public-school system, as well as among parents and parents’ groups.

Mauricio Fernández Maldonado, McCann Lima Creative VP, said: “In a traditional society such as Peru, in which sex education is still a taboo to many parts of the population, we sought a creative way to make the teenage pregnancy problem more visible to youngsters, by showing them the real, every day impact it may have in their lives.”

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The campaign raised tangible discussions and dialogues between parents and between parents and educators in a very conservative culture, because without the support of parents, sex education for schoolchildren would not become acceptable or effective. The reception to the initiative in the educational system was extremely positive: Hundreds of regular math exams were performed using Real Problems. Already, the Peruvian Ministry of Education has shown interest in incorporating the subject in their standard curriculum.

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