Girls for Girls: support and celebration

28 March 2014

As we mentioned in our previous blog, girls and women can better finance their sanitary requirements when they have easy access to funds. Therefore there are strong income-generating aspects to the Girls for Girls (G4G) programme, and the various income-generating concepts demonstrated at last week’s three-day seminar (which began on the 19th of March) were an important addition to an important subject. Attendees were thrilled, not only to hear about income-generating activities but to have examples explained and demonstrated to them. One of these was table banking, a concept that has already had an impact in a number of Kenyan communities. The patron of a table banking group gave attendees a presentation on the table banking concept. Community members — often a women’s group — are encouraged to save some money every month as group shares. This money forms a revolving fund within the group. Members take short-term or long-term loans from the fund, which they invest in income-generating concepts and repay at a modest rate of interest, increasing the size of the fund. The concept helps to mobilise local resources, and allows people to have more control over their own destiny. It could finance not only household activities and needs but also small businesses. Of course, while access to financial resources is a useful way of allowing women to look after their own sanitary needs, such needs are not something to be ashamed of. When members of the team from Practical Action — which works with communities to find practical solutions to the poverty they face — gave their presentation, they reminded attendees that periods are something that all girls will experience as they get to puberty. We should, therefore, stop making them a secret. We should, in short, be celebrating womanhood. And we had encouraging support for this notion on Friday when there were demonstrations of reusable sanitary towels from various suppliers, including KMET (Kisumu Medical Education Trust). These demonstrations had an interesting and encouraging side effect; many men were among those taking an interest in, looking at, and even touching the reusable sanitary towels. They asked lots of questions too! On Friday the seminar also welcomed some extra attendees in the shape of head teachers and deputy head teachers, pushing up the attendee number to 55 participants. This was both appropriate and useful as there were many of their staff members attending; the backing and understanding of their superiors will be a great source of support for the teachers working with the G4G programme. At the end of the seminar all the schools declared themselves ready to start something, be it an income generating activity or saving money with a table banking scheme or just helping with the sustainability of the programme and ensuring that girls remain in school. The schools are now working on action plans of their own that they can present to the local Friends of Londiani office and, of course, also working on getting and making use of reusable sanitary towels. It was a great event, and we at Friends of Londiani really feel that we, and the schools that took part, have made some important progress. We’d like to offer a big thank-you to all the participants who offered their time to help in the seminar and to all the facilitators for a job well done. The message from this exciting initiative and so many others like it is that things are happening and support is being mobilised to help girls to gain access to the sanitary supplies that will help them to stay in schooling. But it’s also all about removing the taboos of talking about reproductive health in the communities. And — of course — about celebrating womanhood!