International Day of the Girl
On Friday October 11th we celebrated the International Day of the Girl at our partner school. The volunteers organized activities for the girls in Standards 4, 5, 6, and 7. The volunteers focused on female empowerment and health education.
The day began with a discussion about the girls’ ideal worlds, which included items like: access to healthcare, good job, freedom of opinion, enough to eat, and no abuse. The girls wrote down other items to add and specify the list made by the volunteers.
Following this, the volunteers asked the girls “what are you afraid of?” with examples of sexual abuse, no education, not enough to eat. Tied into this, Mika talked about the four kinds of abuse: sexual, physical, emotional and neglect. This topic can be hard to discuss, but our volunteers handled it well and explained the importance of talking about these negative issues. Without discussion, without sharing, nothing will change and no one can help.
Once these concepts were explained, the volunteers answered the question “what can you do?” Maria and Nanette demonstrated physical defenses against attackers (don’t worry, no one got hurt!) The girls quite liked the demonstration as it was a physical way to feel safer. There were lots of questions and we hope one day we can teach more self-defense at the partner school.
Maria and the teachers did a little health class for the girls, explaining puberty and periods. Janai was able to procure books written in Swahili and English called “Growth and Change” that explain many of the issues discussed during the day, as well as further explain physical changes. The girls really enjoyed reading these and we’re so thankful that they had something to take home so they’ll always have access to that information!
Janai led the discussion on HIV/AIDS. She presented information on what the virus is, how it can be transmitted, and how to prevent infection. For the older girls, this last part also included a demonstration of how to put on a condom. The girls asked many questions about the transmission of HIV, indicating that this was an important topic to cover!
The final activity was creating reusable pads from towels and khangas. In Tanzania lack of period products and improper bathrooms keep girls from attending school during their periods. This can mean they miss a whole week of school per month. The volunteers demonstrated how to create your own pad from supplies found around the house and a needle and thread. The girls all got the chance to practice and make one for themselves.
Beyond an exchange of information, this day was an opportunity for our female volunteers and teachers at the partner school to work together. The teachers translated and helped our volunteers bridge the cultural gap to ensure that this critical (sometimes life-saving) information reached the audience. The girls had an opportunity to ask questions on topics they rarely discuss. Although there were giggly, awkward moments, everyone listened attentively and engaged in the discussions and the sewing activity. Even if the girls didn’t absorb all the information, they still learned that they could approach their teachers and the volunteers with questions and concerns.