The spread of false information online affects all of us. But for girls, the impact can have harmful consequences. When 16-year-old Mélissa saw a post on Facebook that said girls should wash their private parts with soap for better hygiene, she decided to follow the advice. But the information was wrong and Mélissa ended up with an infection.
“Because of misinformation on Facebook I got into trouble. I saw a post that said for better hygiene, it was necessary for girls to wash their intimate areas with soap which would stop the white discharge. And as I didn’t already do this, I told myself that I must have an infection because I didn’t know that the white discharge was normal.
I was afraid to tell my parents so I started washing my private parts with soap. Sometime later I began to feel itching in my vagina and I didn’t want to tell my parents, because I felt afraid but when it started getting serious I told my mother, who took me to the gynaecologist.
After examining me he gave me some products and we went home. After using the products for two weeks it calmed down. But a few months later it started again. I bought more products but this time it didn’t get better.
So, we went to the gynaecologist again. He did some tests and he asked me how I cleaned my intimate parts. I told him that I did it with perfumed soap, and he said that this is the problem. That when you wash this area with soap it eliminates the natural bacteria that protects the vagina from the attacks by harmful bacteria.
When the vagina’s natural protection is eliminated, it becomes weakened and is therefore susceptible to infection. He also told me about vaginal dryness during sexual intercourse, when there is no lubricant to facilitate penetration it can be painful. In all, my parents spent around 50,000 CFA (90 USD) on medical treatment for me.
I am a member of Plan International’s Girls Out Loud initiative which uses social media platforms to give girls a safe space to openly discuss issues that affect them. I now tell other girls in the group about my experience and warn them to make sure they check the information they find online so they don’t make the same mistake as me.
If anyone shares a post online, they should first verify it beforehand because anyone could come in contact with that information. I think it’s very important to teach people digital literacy because it’s the basis of our daily life. Nowadays everything is digital.