Meet Rukiat Ashawe, an award-winning sex educator, writer, speaker and content creator who is actively changing what sex education means and looks like today.
Rukiat’s focus in sex education primarily deals with STIs, arising from her own personal experience with Herpes, “It was something that I was very much ashamed of” she tells me. However, after an open conversation with some of her girls, Rukiat and her friends went on to begin a sexual liberation journey together that led to her being more open about what she was going through and breaking the taboo.
This experience opened Rukiat’s eyes to the ways the stigma around STIs leads to a lot of mis-information, and she is on a mission to ensure as many people as possible are able to navigate their sexual lives as informed and empowered participants.
In the UK, statistics show that Black Caribbeans and Africans have one of the highest rates of STI’s, along with the highest rate of late diagnosis which Rukiat’s says is down to the conservative mindset towards sex in the black community.
“There’s this stigma that you’re not supposed to talk about sex. You look at how people are being brought up, it’s not really being spoken about in the household. And then you look at the schools, in terms of sex ed, we’re not also getting a proper sex education. There’s just this kind of like hush hush culture, and that’s one of the things I really wanted to change.”
Rukiat’s journey to becoming a sex educator hasn’t been straightforward. Initially Rukiat studied fashion design at college and went to university to study fashion with hopes of becoming a fashion designer, which didn’t work out. Now Rukiat is studying Sociology and is still heavily into fashion, experimenting with her own personal style that she’s coined as “glam decora“, the sum of various alt aesthetics like fairy kei, decora kei, rococo, gyaru and kidcore.
Rukiat’s curated style prompts me to ask her how she goes about defining a standard of beauty for herself which touches a nerve as Rukiat shares “I feel like growing up, one of the biggest things that I’ve always been self conscious about is my looks. So one of the things that’s really helped me to create my own kind of beauty standard is through fashion. I feel like when I do it, I’m not really focused on what other people think of me. I feel like just experimenting with my style and just not being afraid to try new things has definitely helped me to create my own beauty standard and helped me to see myself outside of what society deems as beautiful.”
In more ways than one Rukiat’s personal journey to self discovery and liberation has offered other people someone to look to and know that it’s okay to be yourself and open up about what you’re going through.
Lastly, I ask Rukiat what brings her pleasure, in all senses of the word, “well right now I would say fashion again, I would say K-pop [laughs], I would say just reconnecting with friends, especially because the lockdowns have eased, going out again, being able to just do normal things, I would say those bring me pleasure.“
Watch our interview with Rukiat below:
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