I have never been to Fort Portal except to just pass through once in 2009, so when Donna mentioned the possibility of going to do presentations, I was excited about heading somewhere new. Donna’s friend Evie has been involved in the construction of a community school in Geme Village, just outside of FP, which was a primary school but now also has a secondary school on the same property. There are over 900 students between both sections so it is a busy school. Like an ant hill with students coming and going all over the place.
We presented in the large assembly hall where everyone had been seated in rows a couple of meters ahead of me so the first thing I did was ask them to bring their chairs forward to make a half moon so that it was more “intimate” or as intimate as it can be with 126 P4-P7 girls! We talked puberty, menstruation, the basics of sex and pregnancy, and the importance of saying NO. Abstinence is always the only choice. However, these girls are faced with challenges we have no idea about. Most of the questions were around menstruation, candida and vaginal discharge. “Pulling” is not part of the culture here.
I had brought 250 kits and had been promised only 250 girls (hahah) but as the secondary girls started pouring in, I knew there were more than the 124 kits I had left. I stopped counting at 175. These girls get less on puberty and a lot more about sex and being safe. We cover “safer” days (or the NO days), cervical mucus, when we want to say “yes”, and how these are our ways our body is telling us that we are in pregnancy mode. I demonstrate male and female condoms. One questions I got was to re-explain the female condom because they didn’t get how it worked. It is such a cumbersome thing. The girls always gasp when I take it out of the package after showing them the male condom.
Girls cannot buy condoms here for fear of them bring seen as prostitues so I tell the girls to give their boyfriends 1,000 shillings to get a package of condoms so that they are safe. Yes, abstinence is always the only choice because we want them to stay in school but safer sex is better than unsafe sex. If they are doing it, better they avoid STIs and pregnancy. They believe that contraceptives cause cancer, that peeing after sex prevents pregnancy, and that a condom can be lost inside you and end up at your heart. These myths are evident all over the country.
The most shocking question? “If I am 18 and I play sex with a 10 year old boy, can I get pregnant?” How do I answer that?
As there were more girls than kits, Evie said she would distribute them to the girls as she knows which ones are more needy than others. I really don’t like leaving it that way but I don’t know the needs of the girls so I can’t decide who gets one or not.
Andrew also presented to the primary boys in the morning and the secondary boys in the afternoon and his presentations had over 200 students each. He covers most of the same information as I do and speaks with the boys about menstruation too which is so important. The older boys get a condom demonstration as well.
I spoke with Evie a couple of days later and her feedback was so positive. The women teachers were at my second presentation and they were so impressed by how comprehensive the presentation was. I told Evie that I would happily return and train the teachers as I had done in Njeru and that she could invite teachers from other schools as well. If I can offer sex education training for teachers, that is awesome. As I told her, new curriculum is put on the teachers’ shoulders but then no-one trains us on how to teach it. She said she would arrange for that to happen, So maybe next year when I return, I’ll come and train those teachers. Empower them to teach this material.
That excites me because then the work doesn’t stop when we are not here which is one of the challenges we have spoken about a lot on the board. Groups are starting to make the kits, teachers are being trained in the material… if we can empower small communities to do it all themselves then so much the better. I don’t think we will ever stop bringing kits ourselves and doing these presentations but if we can have pockets around the country who take the information and run with it, that would be fabulous. Ultimately, we are battling period poverty and trying to prevent early pregnancy/STIs. This is not an ISEE project. This is a humanity project.
Enjoy your day. Thanks for following.