Books before boys!

Thank you all for your contributions to, and/or interest in the teens project. The project gained so much momentum that along with all your help, and the generosity of Sue Barnes from KZN who makes and kindly donated the Subz pad packs for Simnayene Senior School (and who is copied in here), we were able to launch the project much more quickly than initially anticipated – we now have many experience and points of learning to discuss in deciding our next steps and direction!

Attached are a few photos to give you a sense of Wednesday workshop. At the request of the school, the workshop was planned for the week after exams, and it turned out to be a very wet, rainy and cold day. As a consequence only 52 of the 133 girls arrived (and 19 of the 121 boys). The noise of the rain on the tin roof of the hall was so loud at times as to make it almost impossible to be heard across the room so most of the work was done in small groups. The workshop generally went well and provided an invaluable opportunity for learning what worked best and what we need to improve for next time. The girls came up with some interesting questions such as  ‘why do girls menstruate and not boys?’, and some good advice such as ‘books before boys because boys bring babies!’ (I like both the alliteration and the sentiment!). The pad packs were a big hit, as reflected in the look of delight on the girls faces! The girls were also intrigued to see the various forms of contraceptives that Sr Nkatini showed them (she is holding up the yellow card of contraceptives in the second photo). Sr Nkantini is from the primary health clinic and is starting a weekly reproductive health clinic at the school from next term. She came away with a substantial list of Grade 8 girls already eager to attend. The boys got good practice in the correct use of condoms.

The workshop lead to an additional, unplanned intervention which was the deployment of the empty boxes from the pad packs to the girls’ toilets to be used as bins for disposable pads. There are about 600 girls in the school and with a conservative estimate of three pads discarded at school per girl monthly, a total of 1800 pads being discarded a month – with no bins available in the bathroom. The photo shows the vice-principal employing the new strategy to see if the cardboard box bins will keep reduce expenditure on plumbers called in to unclog the toilets. In the end this may turn out to be the most cost effective intervention of all!

The remaining pads still need to be distributed to the rest of the class – we will use this as an opportunity to test a different distribution model – possibly during school hours, with the girls who attended the workshop supported to share what they learned with those who did not.

Stanley and Jackie please forward our thanks and the photos to the trainers from Mascinedane who so generously helped with the workshop, and especially thank Rozet for her moving and uplifting poem, and to Impumelelo for being such a great role model for the boys!

I look forward to discussing progress and planning the way forward with the steering committee at the next meeting on Thursday 2nd (next week) at the district health office. Everyone is welcome to contribute their ideas.

Kind regards





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