Thanks to volunteer Oliver Bradley, the Kasiisi Project has an exciting new program to protect girls from sexual harassment , increase their access to education and to promote independence and self reliance: BICYCLES!
Long walks to school are a problem for all children in rural Uganda, but particularly for girls. They are vulnerable to sexual harassment on the road, and the temptation, when you are tired, to accept lifts from the Boda-Boys (drivers of motorbike taxis) can be irresistible. But Boda-Boys often expect sexual favors in return, leading to pregnancy and HIV infection.
The length of the journey also means very early starts, often before dawn, and arriving home too late to do much homework while it is still light.
The Kasiisi Project Girls’ Bicycle Program hopes to change this. The brainchild of volunteer Oliver Bradley, this pilot initiative is providing 25 girls from Kasiisi and Kigarama Primary Schools with bicycles, and teaching them to ride them. Buffalo bicycles, provided by World Relief Bicycles,are built to withstand the tough roads of Africa. All the girls will receive helmets, road safety training, and will be required to bring the bikes in for regular check ups and maintenance.
And we do not forget our boys – we hope to train students in bicycle maintenance, both to maintain our bikes and to provide a skill they can put to good use in the future.
This is a pilot – we hope to expand the program into other schools. We thank Oliver and his family for their generosity donating the first 25 bikes.
Sanitary Pads and Health Talks Keep Ugandan Girls in School
By: Katelyn Wigmore
During the second week of each month, the Girls Peer Education program travels to five local primary schools in the Kibale Forest School District to distribute sanitary pads to girls in Primary 3 to Primary 7. These monthly distributions of sanitary pads help keep Ugandan girls in schools who might otherwise miss anywhere from three to seven days of school because of their monthly periods or the extreme but not unusual case of dropping out of school completely because of it. Kasiisi Primary School Headmistress Lydia Kasenene says “they stay at home because they are embarrassed and feel shame because of this very natural event. If their periods start during the school day, they may bleed through their dresses and won’t participate in class activities because they have to stand up and they may get made fun of.” The program distributes about 900 sanitary pads monthly to the five different primary schools. The pads give the girls confidence, independence, and the ability to be active all the time and participate fully in school just like the boys.
The monthly pad distribution also gives Kibale Forest Schools Program Nurse Eve Basemera and United States Peace Corps Health Volunteer Katelyn Wigmore, the opportunity to give health talks on various subjects from hygiene, menstruation, nutrition, early pregnancy, boy’s and girl’s development, abuse, marriage, and HIV/AIDS. The girls can ask questions and receive answers in a safe and learning environment. Many girls do not have an environment at home where they can ask questions and many times their mothers or relative or close friends do not know the answers to certain questions because they do not know either they never learned or were never told.
The distribution of pads and talks also gives the girls the chance to have hands on experience, such as learning how to use a sanitary pad, learning how to wash their hands with hand washing demonstrations and also learning to build tippy taps that are stationed outside their schools pit latrines to wash their hands. At each of the schools in November as the program focused on hygiene, they did an activity where after the tippy taps were built they brought a couple boys from the school to provide the girls with a teaching opportunity to teach the boys how to use the tippy tap and wash their hands. The girls are given skills that they can take back to share with their families and help create healthier environments at their homes, at school, or in the community. Girls gain confidence and information needed in their everyday lives. Kasenene puts it with a smile “they are becoming smarter than the boys.”
This coming year will focus on continuing to provide the girls with information on health topics to better their health, learn about Life Skills, and introduce different activities like Grassrootsoccer and peer education. The program hopes to combine with the Boys Peer Education program to do activities, also to help provide a better understanding of each other and hopefully will lead to more respect.
We would like to thank all the donors for their generosity as it helps change lives and when we can change one person we change a generation.
Summer always brings a lot of motivated and skilled volunteers to the Kasiisi Project in Western Uganda. This summer Kayla Bruce helped with our girls' sexual health program. The elementary school girls were visited by our nurse, Eve Basemera and Kayla Bruce, to discuss women's empowerment and "Life Skills." Life Skills reinforce messages such as: practicing communication, resisting negative peer pressure, asserting oneself, self esteem, etc.. The girls took notes and used these lessons to create songs, skits and dances which discussed women's empowerment and the life skills. On July 26th, 20 girls from each of the seven schools came to Kasiisi playground and presented their songs, skits and dances. The schools' productions were creative and informative; everyone enjoyed the presentations!
Additionally, this summer, five meetings were held with boys from a sample of our schools. The boys were given a short questionnaire to determine how much they knew about the topics that are covered throughout the course of the Girls' Program (growth and development in boys and girls, hygiene, STD and HIV/AIDs prevention, early pregnancy, etc.) and they had a discussion about Life Skills. We are hoping that this information can be used to design a small program for the boys to complement the girls' program.
The Girls Program was very active toward the end of Term 1 in Uganda. Half of the primary schools that are participating in the Girls’ Peer Education program will be conducting follow-up activities in their schools to reinforce the messages that were discussed in March’s Peer Education Workshop put on by the Kasiisi Project for 14 schools around Kibale National Park.
To introduce the follow up activities, we held a meeting with Headteachers and Senior Woman Teachers from the seven schools. The teachers decided that the first activity that all schools would participate in should be a tree/flower planting activity. We tied the activities back to the messages discussed at the Peer Education workshop by having the Girls’ Program Nurse, Eve, give a talk about early marriage/pregnancy. The girls then broke into groups; half painted signs of encouragement such as “too young to give birth” and “avoid bad peer groups,” while the other half fetched water and planted trees and flowers. The gardens that the girls have made will become “secret gardens” where they can talk with their peer educators about issues that they are facing or questions that they may have. The signs that they painted are displayed in each of their gardens.
Attached are some photos of the tree/flower planting activity at Rweterra Primary School in Western Uganda which is part of the Kasiisi Project Girls Program.
We would like to welcome Debi Hoege to the Kasiisi Project. Debi joined KFSP/The Kasiisi Project in January 2014 as the new Field Director. She has several years of project management experience and 18 months of experience directly in the Fort Portal, Uganda area. While at USAID Headquarters in Washington, Debi served as the principal point of contact for roughly 200 colleagues worldwide as she managed the strategy review process for President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI). In August 2012, she arrived in Fort Portal, Uganda to manage two research projects for the University of Notre Dame in collaboration with local organizations. During her time with KFSP/The Kasiisi Project, Debi will oversee all projects, but will focus specifically on the implementation of the Girls’ Program. She also hopes to improve her Rutooro (the local language in the Fort Portal area of Uganda) !
Additionally, we have had great news from the Project schools in Uganda concerning the government tests that the primary school children take their last year in primary school. This year, two more Kasiisi Project Schools have joined Kasiisi Primary School at the top of the Primary Leaving Exam League – Kigarama Primary School and Kiko Primary School scored averages of 12.4 and 13.0 respectively (lower scores are better). Kigarama Primary School had 57% of its students score Grade 1 passes (which is the highest grade pass), Kasiisi Primary School had 47% and Kiko Primary School had 45% of their students recieve grade 1 passes! The average Primary Leaving Exam scores in our 5 core project schools continue to improve and and in 3 of these schools girls outperformed boys! We are very proud of the teachers, students and parents for these great test results! We are hoping more of the students will be able to attend secondary school as the scores increase.
Attached to this report are a few photos from the Kasiisi Primary School Girls Guides Meeting last week. It was the first Girl Guides meeting of the year, so they were focusing on recruitment to fill the spots that last year’s P7 girls held. The girls seemed excited to be a part of the group and ended the meeting with one of their Girl Guides songs!
Stay tuned for many more updates from the field and please visit www.kasiisiproject.org for more information!
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