I conducted my second workshop this Tuesday. It was VERY difficult. The girls were very shy to participate in the discussions which made things hard to get through. They also felt the need to say they understood what I was teaching them even if they didn’t (for fear of annoying a ‘muzungu’)! This was more frustrating for Fredah (my Healthstart colleague) and I to work with. I really felt they weren’t getting the key messages. When it came to the practical aspects I would show them the stitch and they would convincingly tell me they understood. When I went back to check they had done it all wrong!
Fredah and I were really starting to doubt the success of the project. She began translating into Luo to see if this would help. The session took a long time and by the end of the day we were both exhausted and quite deflated…In the car home I was starting to think of ways we could amend the design of the workshop or the surveys or change the delivery to optimise their understanding and productivity. The teachers at Rabuor had been fantastic and very supportive. I told them I would be back on Thursday to deliver a training session with teachers and I could catch up with the girls then.
When I arrived on Thursday Madame Helen (one of the Healthstart teachers) came to me to say “your girls are still struggling* to make”. I enquired as to where the girls were to find out what the problem was before the teacher’s training started. “They are under the tree where you left them” – the children’s classroom is permanently under a tree. David and I went over to investigate. As we approached I could see the material I had left them with strewn over their desks but as we got closer I was utterly shocked to see that all the girls had successfully made ALL 6 of the towels they needed! AMAZING RESULT!!! It took me 3-4 hours to make my first prototype! I literally couldn’t believe my eyes! It was totally unexpected! The stitching was perfect (they obviously got better with time) and one girl had even managed to make 7! I asked her how she had done this, I thought each girl had only enough material to make 6, she replied “you told us to use the material carefully!” HOW FANTASTIC!!
(*turns out struggle means working on rather than how we would use the word struggle!)
I called Fredah and George over right away and they were equally impressed. Fredah almost cried! I left 25 girls with 2 pairs of scissors and some material on Tuesday night and by Thursday morning they were done! I was unsure whether they would make all 6 at all and if they did I thought it would take weeks, not day! What pleased me more was that they were so so excited, happy and proud of their own achievement. It was such a reward to see! After what I felt was such a difficult and somewhat frustrating session they really had excelled themselves and clearly they had understood something! These girls not only learnt about reproduction and menstruation but will feel more confident armed with the knowledge of what they need to do each month and what is happening to their bodies… they now even know how to do a blanket stitch and a running stitch!
This young lady above is Magdaline, she was my star pupil! One of the youngest in the class but the quickest learner and extremely focused.
I went on to train the teachers in the MARS project. The session was equally well received, particularly by the headteacher who is very passionate about his school and in particular the girls (he has 3 daughters himself). He was very very appreciative to Ogra for this project and ended the session calling me a ‘godsend’! awwww
He wants to get the girls changing room renovated to include showers and a proper wash bowl. This will mean the girls could wash their pads and take a shower each day at school rather than at home where they don’t feel as secure or comfortable, particularly if their homestead has lots of men.
As I mentioned before I have promised the girls a small bar of soap and a small bottle of lotion as a reward for completing all 6 sanitary towels. I have begun a soap amnesty amongst family and friends to donate any unwanted soaps/lotions they may have lying around. I will need 510 in total. If anyone reading this would like to get involved please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on where to send your donations. All and any help is much appreciated.