On March 19th the ISEE team traveled to two inner-city primary schools in Kampala to present our famous Girls’ Reproductive Health Workshops. We were also very pleased to be able to present our first two Boys’ Hygiene, Puberty and Sexual Health workshops at the same time.
While Erika presented to the boys, Corey (with the assistance of Andrew) presented to the boys. Our newest volunteer, Anna (pictured above) helped Erika and took some pictures for us. Erika had over 100 girls in her first session and around 60 in the second, while Corey had about 60 in both of his.
We wanted to give the boys a kit just like we provide kits for the girls. Of course the contents of the kits had to be different, and so we settled on this.
The presentation for the boys was initially designed to be similar in scope to the girls’. We intended to talk about hygiene, puberty, self esteem and communicable diseases. What we rapidly discovered, though (and this is where practice shapes theory) is that the boys were well versed on all those topics and were instead really interested in talking about one thing: sex.
In fact, during our second presentation we had Andrew quickly lead the boys through the hygiene section before Corey took over the puberty and sexuality parts.
Most of our reproductive health workshops have been geared toward high school girls and young women so when we planned to present at two primary schools this past Wednesday, I had to put together some new information to make it relevant to the age that I was speaking with. Puberty, menstruation and communicable diseases were my prime focus.
The youngest girls who attended were 7 and the oldest were 16, all in grades 3-7. At the first school, the girls who were under the age of 9 did not get kits but I left some with Grace, the headmistress in case one needed a kit. Grace had told me that she has girls who start their period without even knowing what is going on. They are scared and embarrassed and often run home without learning what to do. As we have been told before, these girls don’t return to school for several days and some never return due to fear of being embarrassed again.
101 kits were given out to the 9-16 year olds at the first school and another 60 kits were distributed at the second school. After the first presentation, I dismissed the under 13s and then opened the floor to questions that were more relevant to the older girls. We talked a lot about condom use to keep safer from pregnancy and STDs (with abstinence being the very first and most important option) but then one girl of about 14 raised her hand and said, “We are often attacked and raped. We cannot use condoms then. What do we do?” What do I say? Seek help from family, teachers, friends, organizations but that seems so small a solution to such a harsh reality.
Maybe I need to learn some self-defense and teach the girls how to fight back. Apparently there are rape whistles but I remember attending a Lady Beware presentation in high school and the officer told us to never yell “rape” because no-one wants to be involved and help. “Fire” is a much more effective thing to yell because someone will call for help. So will people here listen to a rape whistle? I’m not sure.
It was terrific to be able to present again after a 3 month hiatus. We had 250 kits ready for distribution using the shields that were left that Bree brought in December, the Ziplocs that were generously donated by Johnson, the pads and bags that Betty’s ladies are sewing, the undies and supplies we’ve bought from town, and the extra 48 kits that Gisela sewed and sent from Kelowna in a container back in the fall that finally made it to us at the end of February.
I also had the great fortune to have Anna help me with the presentation. She knows about the Days for Girls program and she demonstrated how to use the kit. After the second presentation she asked if she could present part of the workshop next time. It would be fantastic to have a couple people here who could offer the presentations if we have kits still to distribute when we leave in July.
Grace at asked about us coming back to present again and I told her that we could certainly return annually to present to the girls who are too young at the moment but who will be starting to go through puberty next year. Jannifah from also said we were welcome whenever we wanted to return and she asked to sit through the boys’ presentation.
I certainly hope we can continue to work together and develop a partnership in more ways than just the reproductive health workshops. What an amazing day! I love doing this work and spending time with the girls. Grace has asked about the Mama Nguvu program for the women in the slum near the school. We have to return to meet and talk about that sometime in the near future as well. There is a possibility that we will offer a paper making workshop at the primary school in July as a skill development program for youth. And the adults at the presentations have asked about us presenting to other communities. That’s how this wonderful ball rolls! From one event to the next to the next. Awesome!