Women and Girls Program Report
The month of May is women's month, since World Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated on May 28. Our program for May centered around raising awareness and educating young adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene management and other pressing women's issues like teenage pregnancy, sexual harassment in school, domestic violence, early marriage, and family planning.
On May 27, we organized a day-long awareness program with students of "Kormah High School in Voinjama." We had 30 participants from the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade classes attending the program. Esther Kpaku, Saygbah Kullie, Beatrice Morlue, Helena Mavolo, and Mahawa Komala were the key presenters, supported by Morris S. Kamara, Mohammed Kamara, and Boakai M. Kromah.
Esther started the program, she succinctly discussed teenage pregnancy, the causes and effects on young girls and the community, the impacts on society, and how it can be prevented. She encouraged the participants to avoid early pregnancy and take education very seriously to avoid being caught in the web of hardship and having unplanned babies. She highlighted the contributions of women to society when they are empowered through education. Referring to the former present Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she further stated that "education is the key to success and power that cannot be confiscated." With education, you will have the power to alleviate hardship, positively contribute to your community, Liberia, and society in general. She further explained that early pregnancy and marriage are obstacles to education, contribute to poor health, and may come with many social consequences. In the end, she encouraged participants to avoid them by abstaining from sex, having protected sex, or considering family planning.
Saygbah and Beatrice discussed menstrual hygiene management. It was an exciting and interactive discussion as the girls were eager to understand basic things because many parents do not educate their girls at home due to cultural beliefs. During the discussion, some girls were concerned about dermatophytes infection associated with menses, and so emphasis was placed on cleaning underwear and taking regular showers, as well as changing pads several times per day. The girls noted that it was difficult to afford several pads every month due to the staggering economic crisis which is causing prices to skyrocket. In the end, personal hygiene was placed above all else.
Helena Mavolo discussed the rationale for family planning when individuals could not adhere to protective sex, side effects, and selecting the right contraceptive, some of which include oral, dermal pad, implants, and rings. It was further discussed that selecting the right contraceptive is challenging, but one of the most effective and widespread used options are pills containing estrogen and progesterone. She further pointed out that oral and implants are affordable and available in healthcare facilities. During the discussion, side effects such as obesity, prolonged amenorrhea (absence of menses) and bleeding were also pointed out. In the end, participants were advised about how to choose and get on contraceptives, as well as ensuring they understood they are not protective against STDs.
Lastly, Mahawa discussed sexual harassment in school and domestic violence. During the discussion, some of the girls admitted that some of their teachers inappropriately touched them, but they do not have any intention of filing complaints due to fear of failing subjects, especially when no one was willing to attest to the truth, including the administration who will do anything to protect their institution’s image. Therefore, they will deny the allegation and the student will face the consequences. However, she encouraged participants to not be afraid and to report any harassment or verbal abuse in school to the institution’s authority, and at home.
She further stressed that individuals have rights and values, and they should never be abused without consequence. No teacher should ask you for sex to get a good grade, and this behavior should be called out by students so it does not continue. If you are threatened for speaking out in school or at home, visit the women and child rights office in Voinjama. Also, if you are a victim of such behavior and going through trauma, speak out so you can get the help you deserve.
Overall, we had an excellent and interactive discussion with participants glued to every topic discussed. The event ended with a distribution of pads among participants. We look forward to future engagements with more schools in the regions. Safe and proper menstrual hygiene practices is key to womanhood, so lets educate and support our girls. Many thanks to eg for supporting his meaningful event.
Future program recommendations:
Partner with Safe pad Liberia (A local group) that produces reusable antimicrobial sanitary pads.
Distribute 100 reusable pads to school-going girls.
Carry out more awareness on menstrual health in local high schools to increase knowledge of Menstrual Hygiene Management among adolescent girls.