Nina Atkins van-Kogelenberg, a crucial part of the founding inspiration for PEPAIDS and currently our Zambia Advisor, has recieved the highest honour from the Dutch Queen, for her 31 years of service in the field of sexual health for young people in Zambia.
Nina, a family friend of PEPAIDS' Founder, Helen Allen, hosted Helen when she returned to Zambia in 2001, for the first time since leaving as a baby in 1980. It was Nina's enthusiasm and Western perspective on the Zambian culture that she had lived in for 20 years, that played a crucial part in Helen founding PEPAIDS. Helen says "It was Nina's insight and passion to see young people empowered to be able to change their own lives for the better that moved me to do what I could to help. Without Nina, PEPAIDS might never have been born and it would certainly not be where it is today. We are delighted that her tireless endeavours and amazing contribution in Zambia over the past 31 years have been recognised. Nina thoroughly deserves this tremendous accolade! "
Nina and her Husband George
Read below a translation of the Radio Nederland Wereldomroep ( Radio Netherlands Worldwide) interview with Nina, following her honour from the Queen. For the original Dutch article, click here!
It’s raining ribbons at home and abroad
Published RNW: April 27, 2012 – 12:32 pm / by Margaret Strijbosch
Queen Beatrix makes her ribbons also descend abroad. Seventeen non-Dutch and Dutch living abroad get a ribbon pinned on this year, from an honorary consul in Chile up to a water manager in Egypt. Among the knighted is Nina Atkins-Van Kogelenberg, dedicated to the sexual education of young people in Zambia.
"I feel very honoured," said Nina Atkins-Van Kogelenberg on the phone. She just -Friday at 5 pm- got the royal award. It was a surprise. "I came for a meeting at the embassy and then I suddenly saw all those acquaintances of mine, people who live near Lusaka. I thought: what are these people doing here? "
When the ambassador spoke, Nina quickly understood what was happening "He said that the queen had given me a ribbon. I did not know what to say. "
Horse riding lessons
Nina has lived in Zambia for 31 years. After studying in the Netherlands, she left early 70's to Zambia as a midwife. She has helped to establish a midwifery course and did also teach there herself. In her spare time she took riding lessons. There she met an Englishman, with whom she married in 1971. "After that I kept working as a volunteer in the hospital until 1987."
Over the years, Nina specialized in sexual education. "It's about the combination of poverty and sexuality. There is much misunderstanding here about sexuality. Where once there was an initiation rite for girls of six months, it is now reduced to a kitchen party that only lasts two days. I tried to find out what those girls were told. The story that they heard made them a victim, and had nothing to do with equality between the sexes."
in Zambia girls and boys are raised separately. Nina: "Thus they see each other not as individuals but as sex objects. This causes problems in many areas. For example, in economic terms, but it also affects health. A few years ago HIV prevalence was at 30%. This has everything to do with the fact that it is culturally difficult to have a friendship relation with each other."
Nina wants to change the unhealthy relationship between the sexes in Zambia. "You can do HIV prevention, that’s medically and sociologically correct, but if it is not done to talk about sexuality, nothing will happen."
According to Nina the culture must also change. "Boys and girls need to learn how to treat each other, they need to learn to see each other as persons, who can build a friendship, who can trust each other and who are faithful within their marriage. We teach boys that it is important that women should experience joy in their marriage. The women that come to me are crying only. They see themselves as victims of marriage. "
To achieve her goal Nina has written a book about sexuality for young people. This book is now used by various churches. Nina has founded The Nkokola Project, working with the British Pepaids. She tries to train mentors from different groups, who in turn can get started with their own young people. "I hope they will use this book as sexual initiation. So they not only learn how sex works technically, but also understand how they can talk to each other and should treat each other. "
Besides the attempt to apply the book in the initiation, Nina tries to get a volleyball project off the ground, because this sport is practiced mixed. "Afterwards we discuss how the team has played together, who reacted how; it is a way to get to know each other. In rural areas there are no other opportunities to getting to know each other.”
Theatre is another form that Nina uses to highlight problems. "After the show you can discuss the issues”. Finally she tries to train young people who teach. "These are guys that are not able to get formal pedagogical training, but who we learn to give elementary education, to teach children to read and write."
Nina Atkins lives in the bush, as she herself says. She has now reached retirement age and takes it a little easier. But still she works for the Nkokola Project. "It's my passion."
More information about Nina’s project