It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon of July 12th 2016, after nearly a week of attending AU Summit and GIMAC in Kigali Rwanda. I was one among 20 delegates from YWCA Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Rwanda. We had a privilege to visit YWCA Rwanda’s office and the projects they implement in the locations. I was so amazed by the SRHR program YWCA Rwanda is implementing. The program is implemented through primary school and engages pupils from 10 to 14 years both girls and boys. We arrived at the school and found children with their teachers very happy and excited to welcome YWCA visitors in to their school. Children were so energetic and full of hopes. They explained about the program through a drama play. The message was very clear and well understood. In short the program was about reproductive health particularly menstrual hygiene. The program provides information about menstrual hygiene and supply menstrual kits to adolescent girls. A kit has sanitary pads which will support a girl for the entire month of menstrual period, calendar to record her menstrual dates, diary that keeps communication between a girl and the champion who normally visits them and provides SRHR information and lastly the kit has menstrual beads that keep record of her menstrual cycle.
What I found so interesting is the openness and confidence the girls have in fronts their counterpart colleagues the boys. The same for boys, they showed highest level of understanding about menstruation and they seem to support the girls. Unlike to many boys of their age for instance in my country Tanzania. YWCA Tanzania was implementing a SRHR and HIV program which has just phased out this June. The program aimed at providing accurate information about SRHR and HIV/AIDS to adolescent girls and boys from 12 to 22 years. However, boys especially at the younger age of 10 to 14 boys tend to make funny of girls about menstruation and show less support. We frequently received complaints of this kind from girls in branches where this program was implemented. On top of that girls tend to be very shy about some topics on SRHR and HIV/AIDS. I think YWCA Rwanda has succeeded to break the silence because they stood up for one issue (menstrual hygiene) on SRHR and provide depth information about it to both boys and girls and their community. Sometimes it has a plus to stay focused on one issue.
Similarities between YWCA Tanzania and Rwanda (good practices), the program
- Is working with young children starting at the age of 10
- Involves both boys and girls
- Involves parents during implementation which ensures support from them hence sustainability of the program
- Involves teachers for follow up hence support and sustainability of the program
- Involves young mentors who provide SRHR information, they are youth friendly and are likely to be understood and trusted by the children and even their fellow youth.
More that be done to improve the program
- Partner with health service providers like hospitals and health centres for medical referrals. Furthermore, the program can link with medical doctors (interns) to give their professional opinions, health check-up, etc to students and even communities about SRHR.
- Partner with legal aid institutions that provide legal assistance in the case of GBV incidences to school children.
- Engage Religious Leaders for proper counseling and mentorship.
Blog by guest blogger and mentor, Lilian Kapinga – YWCA of Tanzania Programs Implementation Manager.