Malaysia

Sexual health: Meet Kakak and Adik Kondom, the duo educating Malaysians despite criticism (VIDEO)

Kakak Kondom host Azryn Azhari Arshad (left) and her co-host Najwa A’liah Fairuz have teamed up to make sexual health education accessible to a young audience. — Pictures by Choo Choy May
Kakak Kondom host Azryn Azhari Arshad (left) and her co-host Najwa A’liah Fairuz have teamed up to make sexual health education accessible to a young audience. — Pictures by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Aug 14 — Two Malaysian women are spearheading an online series named Kakak Kondom to educate the youth about all things related to sexual health.

Kakak Kondom host Azryn Azhari Arshad and her co-host Najwa A’liah Fairuz, known as Adik Kondom, have filmed two episodes so far debunking myths about condoms and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The duo hopes to make sexual health a fun and approachable subject and ultimately empower people with the knowledge to make decisions that will keep them safe and protected.

Azryn told Malay Mail that the Kakak Kondom personality grew out of a nickname she got while organising sexual health workshops at Malaysian universities.

“I’ve been giving talks to students at universities since 2017 and after a few years, students began calling me ‘Condom Lady’ or ‘Kakak Kondom.’

“When they see me on campus, they would ask me which faculty I’d be talking to that day and if they can come and watch because they know that they can get free condoms from me.

“It was a way to engage with the students on a meaningful level. At the end of the day, we want to provide correct sexual health education to them,” said Azryn, who is also assistant manager of strategic partnerships at Karex.

The debunking segments on Kakak Kondom are partly based on the misconceptions that she has encountered during these university workshops.

One incident that stands out in her mind was when a university student submitted an anonymous question asking if one could use motor oil as a lubricant during sex.

“Many of the audience members laughed at the question but this was at a university outside of an urban area, so we have to consider that some of them might be unaware.

“Motor oil comes in packaging that says ‘lubricant’ and to their understanding, they might assume that you could use it for sex as well.

“It sounds silly but it made me see how privileged some people are to have access to the right information, and I had to be clear that motor oil is reserved for cars and explain to them what silicone-based and water-based lubricants are.

“We get very technical but we keep the mood light because you can’t be too serious with students, otherwise they’ll get bored very easily.”

One Condom Malaysia has now collaborated with Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) and Universiti Teknologi Mara to make Kakak Kondom a full-fledged educational platform with online videos providing information to young people about sexual health.

The videos are light-hearted and involve fun activities like testing the durability of condoms using mandarin oranges and participating in a quiz about STIs, with losers having to eat a helping of extra spicy noodles as punishment.

Azryn said the show can help fill in the gaps of sexual health knowledge in Malaysia since the education system still lacks a comprehensive sex education syllabus that can help young people to make informed decisions and prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

“The problem with our society is that we’re very good at sweeping everything under the carpet.

“But what happens when the dust bunny gets bigger and you can’t hide it anymore? It ends up disrupting everything and that’s why it’s important to engage young people about these topics.”

The dynamic duo

Kakak Kondom was initially planned to be a one-woman show but Azryn ended up experiencing a fair bit of stage fright performing alone in front of the cameras.

That was when her colleague Najwa, a strategic partnership executive at Karex, was roped in to give Kakak Kondom a sidekick in the form of Adik Kondom.

“Adik Kondom appears in certain episodes to give Kakak Kondom a partner to converse with.

“The initial plan was to have Azryn host the show by herself but when she filmed the pilot episode, she was a bit awkward and nervous in front of the camera.

“We thought she needed a sidekick and someone she could naturally interact with,” said Najwa.

While Najwa’s presence helped Azryn feet more at ease while filming, both women admitted that they had to brace themselves for negative responses towards their content.

Some Facebook commenters were disgruntled after watching the pilot episode of Kakak Kondom and claimed it was uncouth for young Malay-Muslim women to cover such topics.

Najwa was especially concerned as she wears a headscarf but both she and Azryn hope people can look beyond appearances and take in the core message of what they’re trying to promote.

“I do have worries (about being on the show) because of my appearance.

“I’m afraid that people will find me on social media and start harassing me but for the most part, I think there’s been a positive reception from the public.

“It would be a good move if we can partner with other entities to make Kakak Kondom bigger.”

“There’s always going to be keyboard warriors. One person even messaged me on my private Facebook account and asked me, ‘So, you’re the Kakak Kondom who has no shame, right?’” 

Knowledge is power

Azryn hopes Kakak Kondom can dispel the common misconception that sex education will “promote” or “encourage” young people to be promiscuous and engage in reckless behaviour.

“As much as society thinks sex education will encourage young people to have sex, it actually deters them from making the wrong choice and putting themselves in danger.

“It’s a safety precaution just like putting on your seatbelt. We are not encouraging people to have unprotected sex. 

“In fact, we want to stop that.”

Her work is especially important as one doesn’t have to look far to see the consequences of unprotected sex in Malaysia.

A study conducted by the Health Ministry in 2015 revealed that an average of 18,000 teenage pregnancies occur every year with 25 per cent of these pregnancies occurring out-of-wedlock.

This leads to a rise in baby dumping, with two recent cases of newborn babies being thrown out from high-rise apartments in Penang still fresh on Malaysians’ minds.

MAF chairman Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said Kakak Kondom is a timely initiative to emphasise the importance of safe sex amongst young people.

“By making information about sexual health easily accessible in a casual, fun, and engaging platform like Kakak Kondom, we can help to demystify the use of condoms. 

“In the process, we will encourage our youth to behave more responsibly and make informed decisions when it comes to sex,” said Dr Adeeba.

“With more than 75 per cent of new HIV cases reported among youth under 40, sexual education is needed more than ever. 

“I also believe that information about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a tool for HIV prevention should also be highlighted in the mainstream narrative,” said Dr Adeeba in a press release.

Azryn said there’s always something new to learn with regards to sexual health, no matter what kind of background or age group you come from.
Azryn said there’s always something new to learn with regards to sexual health, no matter what kind of background or age group you come from.

Helping people of all ages

While Kakak Kondom is aimed primarily at Malaysian youth, Azryn hopes that audiences of all ages can learn something new by watching the series.

Besides keeping Malaysians up to speed on condoms and safe sex, sometimes Azryn’s job is as simple as passing on information that can help people enrich and improve their sex lives. 

She recalled a roadshow she did where she met a married woman in her 50s who hadn’t heard of lubricant before and often struggled with pain during intercourse.

“When you’re in your 40s and 50s, it’s normal for your body to stop producing as much natural lubrication compared to when you’re younger.

“We started telling her about lubricant and what it does before giving her some samples.

“When we bumped into her at another event, she came up to us and said, ‘I used it the other day and it was the best.’

“I was gushing when she gave us her feedback. I felt a bit sad too because she was my mother’s age and she spent at least 50 years of her life without knowing what lubricant was.

“Women like her can spend 30 or 40 years in a marriage thinking that sex is supposed to hurt because that’s all they’ve ever known, so I was glad I could help in this way.”

For now, Azryn is focused on putting out more Kakak Kondom episodes once filming can resume in October.

For more information on Kakak Kondom, visit MAF’s website.

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