Last updated 5 months ago
As we continue to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism, our team in Shinyanga visited Segese Secondary School. As soon as students saw the 116 branded t-shirts, they ran toward us with the warmest of welcomes! We felt right at home and it was easy to see their excitement since we last saw them during the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC-Tournament 2020).
For us, school visits are not only an opportunity to inform, they are an opportunity to learn and oftentimes, relearn old lessons. And the dialogue held that afternoon reminded us of one major thing – awareness is working and children are becoming increasingly knowledgeable on issues of GBV. During the dialogue they explained types of abuse; GBV reporting mechanisms; and the difference between GBV and Sexual Abuse. Furthermore, we conversed about menstrual hygiene and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHRs). There are many takeaways for us, but let’s just share a few.
Involving Boys as Changemakers
There was a suggestion on involving boys as changemakers / champions and engaging them to break the taboo of silence at family and community level. Boys can be empowered to speak out whenever they see their sisters are being abused or exploited and they should take heart and report these incidences to authorities. Furthermore, the boys can use their trusted position in families to educate their parents / guardians on leveling the playing field for equal treatment of all children, regardless of gender, within the family.
We were completely caught off guard by the school Head Boy, who felt that boys were left out during the IDGC-Tournament 2020 event. He questioned whether a similar tournament would be held for the boys as well. He reckoned that if boys and girls can work together there is a better chance to achieve gender equality and that whenever we plan community events for girls, we need to include boys – this is definitely a lesson we are carrying forward.
Mobilisation at School Level
The Headmistress was very impressed by the dialogue with her students. She asked whether we can offer support to the students in forming a group or a club and whether these lessons and topics can be taught continuously to them. She added that the knowledge shared was very deep and important for her students and that a GBV / SRHRs club will be a great platform for learning and conversations for both boys and girls. The best way of bringing change is by responding to the needs of our beneficiaries and we are happy they already feel a need for more engagement and have proposed a solution – something we can work together on in the coming year.
On Menstruation and Soaring Ever Higher – Conversations with Our Champions
We also had the opportunity to talk with the 7th and the 10th IDGC-Tournament 2020 winners. Yasinta and Faith who are currently in form three, were very thrilled to see us. We enjoyed our conversation with them and discussed mentorship opportunities in their new role as GBV Champions (GBV Champs to advocate for an end to violence against women and children, promote sexual and reproductive health education and promote gender equality in their schools, homes and communities).
Yasinta was a little bit emotional as she said, ‘’You have no idea how hard it is for some girls. Most parents don't understand when a girl says she is in need of pads or pants. Some girls feel like they are cursed and don’t understand why this has to happen to them. They feel like they don’ belong and that no one is ready to understand or help. Your package saved so many of us because it lifted a burden."
We also got to meet Flora who was the IDGC-Tournament 2020 emcee! She wanted to know who thought of putting the girls’ menstrual hygiene kits together. We called the Team Leader at the National Child Helpline who had ensured the girls got the best menstrual kits possible and the girls were able to talk with her. She was very happy that they loved their kits and encouraged them to keep soaring higher and to never allow their focus and dreams to blur.
As we ended our day, the girls had one major request – that if there is a possibility, the special menstrual kits be provided at least twice a year. We left Segese Secondary School energised and with the question of how we can use all this feedback too make sure our impact is sustainable for – both the girls and the boys who are part of the community.
Reader’s notes – the menstrual kits referred to in the article were packages that included sanitary pads, pants and petroleum jelly distributed to all girls present at the IDGC-Tournament 2020. We are grateful to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for supporting our work in Msalala through the “Realizing Gender Equality through Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls” programme.
This story was written by Msalala Field Team and compiled by C-Sema’s Media Team.