Oh my goodness! Today’s presentation was a challenge. These girls from the Boston ghetto (as this area is called) have seen and done it all. No question was too extreme or too personal. Whenever I spoke of abstinence, they all rolled their eyes. Hopefully some of the message on staying safe was absorbed and maybe some of the girls will avoid getting pregnant or HIV. I can only do so much and leave the rest in their hands.
We were 100 in a room of maybe 12×12 with all the girls sitting at desks so there was no room to move and not a lot of air circulating. I commented at the beginning about how energetic the girls were and they all laughed. They were fun girls and had a good sense of comradery. So much so that we were able to get one of the girls to come forward to demonstrate the use of the kits.
However, I did have to use my teacher voice near the end of the presentation and tell them that if they were not quiet for the last few minutes so that we could end our explanation of the kits, I would walk out with all the kits and not give them any. That quietened them down long enough for us to finish. I think they would have mobbed me if I had tried to leave with the kits! They were very enthusiastic about them. Not that this photo shows them exuding much enthusiasm!
Best of luck to them! Reminded me a bit of the show Boston Public.
This morning, Anna arranged for a meeting with the counsellors at Health Empowered Youth Focus Uganda located in Kawempe, another very poor area. This organization does almost exactly what ISEE is doing: sexual health education, women empowerment and entrepreneurship. They also do basic literacy (reading, writing and math), and work with teen mothers.
I was really interested to hear more about the sexual health and self-esteem work that they do. They try to teach the women about standing up for what they need and want so that their husbands see them as equals. I asked them what the reaction from the husbands was. “Some are positive and appreciate the change but others do not like it and may beat the woman for asking for something when she does not add to the financial basket of the family.” This is why they do training and empowerment programs to give women skills to earn money and add to the finances of the family. Then the husband is more likely to listen to what the wife wants because she is adding her share of earning to the family budget.
“Our reproductive health workshops are done in primary schools with boys and girls together so that we may change the attitudes of the children toward one another. We hope this will change how they view each other as they become adults so that we do not have so many problems with domestic abuse.” What a brilliant idea.
Apart from the usual tailoring, crafts and sack making businesses, the organization teaches women how to make briquettes. Most cooking is done over charcoal stoves which is dirty, smelly, bad for the environment and expensive. One of the counselors at the centre read about this way of making briquettes and went for an information session to learn more about it. It seemed like such a logical idea that they are now teaching the women how to do it.
The briquettes are made from compostable waste. The peelings from matooke, cassava, potatoes, etc. are dried then burned. A chemical is added that “solidifies” the burned remains and then the briquettes are hand formed. These briquettes burn for a longer time and are cheaper so the community is enthusiastic about buying them. There are machines that can make the briquettes instead of doing them by hand but these cost between 2,000$ and 15,000$ so they are just having to make them by hand.
They have a partnership with Reproductive Health Uganda for their materials, including models to demonstrate the effective use of the female and male condom, but they do not have any continuous funding partners. They rely on donors and organizations that are willing to give them materials and money to continue their programs.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah, a teen mother who was one of the first graduates from the literacy program. She is now one of the literacy trainers for the new girls.
I think this organization is so closely aligned to ISEE that we would be remiss to not investigate a partnership in the future. I told them that my program was so full this year that I would not be able to return but in future years, we could certainly work together. I shared one of our kits with them and they were very keen on having these to support their program too. I would love to sit in on their presentation to see how it differs from ours. Maybe we can attend their presentation and then teach about the kits and hand them out as a joint presentation.
I also think this would be a great place to expand the Mama Nguvu program as the mothers get skills training but once they are done the program, they do not get the equipment to continue. We could support them in the second phase of their empowerment by providing them with the sewing machine or snack making equipment or crafting tools that they need.
My brain is going a million miles per minute. More time-more time-more time!! I need more time!
Have a lovely Thursday.