everyday gandhis Girls' Program, April 2022
By: Esther Kpaku & Mahawa Komala
We at everyday gandhis (eg) believe in gender equity; therefore, our team was able to conduct another eg girls’ program on February 4, 2022 at the WK-Lutheran Mission High School located in the Gbandi Community, Voinjama City. Both eg staff and the school administration worked closely together on planning and implementation, the program was attended by thirty-three (33) participants from the junior and senior high sections. Before the program commenced, the head of the eg staff layout the significance and reasons why eg prioritizes such a program. The topics discussed but not limited to include the importance of girls' education; domestic violence against women/girls; teenage pregnancy-causes and preventive methods; and proper hygiene practice during menses.
As we remain cautious about the outcomes of our programs, the program was planned to be participatory rather than a presentation. Hence, a general question was posed to the participants, “what will you do for your community when you achieved your educational goals?” Many of them gave compassionate answers that leave wondering about a saying that ‘when you educate a girl, you educate a nation’. In addition, most of their answers were more about taking on various tasks that men can do with efficiency to serve humanity, starting from home. Most of them said, “we have seen educated females who work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families, morally and financially; as well as in public sectors with great achievements.” Nevertheless, possible obstacles that could prevent many of them from achieving their dreams were highlighted such as early marriage and poverty-which is a driving force that is most likely to pull most of them back!
Moving on to the next topic, domestic violence against women/girls, an open question was asked to the participants about whether they know and understand the phrase ‘domestic violence against women/girls and if either of them has ever been victimized? From the discussion, it became clear that most of them have little or no knowledge and many have experienced it in one form or another, it was recognized that many of them are abused because of the lack of basic needs such as food, tuition, school supplies, and others. Some admitted that male teachers in school take advantage of the fact that they are girls and fail them in exams to exchange sex for a grade. When asked why they do not complain to the administration or principal, the common answer was, “it is a conspiracy, all of them are the same.” Because they are all involved, even parents do not have the power to break through the powerful ring they have created. Literally, they are vulnerable and at some point, some give in and fall for it. The reality of domestic violence against women/girls in Liberia is visible in the eyes of many people nowadays, is revealed by an increase in rape cases and teenage pregnancy, the Liberia legislature is alarmed about the situation and has summoned the Justice Ministry to know the rising rape and teenage pregnancy. In the end, our staff encouraged the participants to insist on their rights and shouldn’t give in to anything, and should seek a way to involve the police with concrete evidence.
After an hour break, we discussed in depth teenage pregnancy as is one of the consequences of domestic violence against women/girls. During a discussion of a particular topic, we try as possible as we can to get participants' understanding of the topic under discussion. It allows us to draw an area of concentration (AOC); during our assessment, few had some understanding of teenage pregnancy, but the majority do not even though they have heard of the phrase. Most of them had little knowledge of the causes (mainly sex) but a complete lack of preventive methods. As the discussion got more interesting, participants were eager to learn every aspect of the topic to avoid being victimized. Our staff diligently layout in sequential manner causes and preventive procedures, and the participants were highly thankful for the great insight provided to them. Key emphases were placed on absenting themselves from sex to avoid being a victim, and if they are actively engaged already, they should practice safe sex such as the use of condoms and family planning, even though they come with side effects, but the benefits outweigh the side effects.
In continuation, participants were taught how to properly use sanitary pads, especially reusable ones. It was explained that during the menstrual cycle, many microorganisms seek to utilize the opportunity to infect and cause genital disease. Therefore, during this time, girls should practice high personal hygiene, and at most, they should bathe three times a day, at least twice a day. Crucial hygiene measures were highlighted as proper disposal of pads after use, they were told to properly dispose of pads by either of the following methods: burning, flushing through a common, or deep-buried into the solid.
Finally, the activity ended with a zoom session with Janet Edmond, a Senior Director for Peace and Development Partnerships at Conservation International (CI). Janet is an expert in family planning and reproductive health, and maternal and child health. Since my participation with CI, Janet has expressed interest in eg work and requested a zoom session in any of our upcoming girls’ programs. The meeting lasted for an hour emphasizing the above-discussed topics. It was a memorable experience for our participants.
Conclusion and recommendation
To conclude, the program was participatory and successful. We hope to continue with such engagement to far rural communities where violence against girls seems to be a nun. Forty-eight (48) sanitary pads were distributed to the participants.
Most of the participants expressed great concern about the affordability of sanitary pads; as a result, they have to use a piece of cloth and stay home all day during their cycle and be absent from school; therefore, they highly request eg occasional rations which will enable them to save money and pay for additional pads when the ration finished.
eg staff see it necessary to include a radio program that will help them reach remote communities across Lofa County.
Our staff has also noticed that some participants learn by vision, therefore we are kindly requesting a projector for visual learners, as well as a multifunctional digital camera for a good photograph.