Alikhan Madibekov: Supporting Inclusive and Equitable Access to Sex Education
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy again, back on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to chat with Alikhan Madibekov, data researcher and team leader at SEDU.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me today, Alikhan! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Alikhan: The pleasure is mine, Spiffy! Teenagers worldwide don't have much access to sexual education—schools hardly organize enough sessions to teach them, and educators lack engaging tools, which makes the lesson often awkward and dull. In Central Asia (and not only), people also can't talk about the stigmatized topic (“Shh, sex!”) openly, and that doesn't seem right. It increases the chances of getting STDs, STIs, and getting rights violated.
Spiffy: That’s great. What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Alikhan: Alongside my other projects for making science more accessible and funnier to learn through video games, SEDU plays a different role in my heart. This is not only about education, but also about changing wrong social norms. It's about learning something that we all need in our life. I doubt everyone is interested in my Rise project's concept of how space affects people. This project connected me with incredible people from the US, India, Pakistan, and China, as well as with institutions across the world.
Spiffy: Tell me more about how SEDU is working towards a more equitable world.
Alikhan: The development and distribution of inclusive and culturally sensitive sex education materials in local languages can help to combat harmful stereotypes and stigma. Everyone must know the consequences and seriousness of their actions, and lack of education is the barrier. We believe that everyone should be familiar with their bodies and know the basic science behind them so they can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy. The board game not only makes it possible, but also funnier!
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Alikhan: I have so many plants in my room that my mom thought it was unhealthy for me. We were constantly arguing, but she never believed in my words. I Googled whether this was unhealthy—still a "no." I talked with my AP Biology teacher—still a "no." I wrote a research paper about the plants' influence on us—still a "no." Once I won research competitions, however, she had no choice but to say “yes.” I not only discovered my passion for research, but also realized that my values are a result of my environment. Since then, I’ve loved people the most.
Spiffy: That’s amazing. Thanks for speaking with me today, Alikhan—it’s been an honor!
Alikhan Madibekov is a Kazakhstani innovator who strives to build an inclusive society, paying attention to the inaccessibility of education, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism, having more than 900 community hours. He founded International Children's Right Club with UNICEF, a non-profit to provide free psychological support to those who can't afford it. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on April 20, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.