Nov 11, 2016

Turning Village Mothers into community activists is tremendous achievement

Heaalth promoters lead in GBV interventions
Heaalth promoters lead in GBV interventions

Dear Friends, Colleagues and supporters,

Thanks to you, the month of August 2016 was not just an eventful month but a time of discovery. As the mothers traversed through 4 schools, they discovered that they have so much to offer to their community and to themselves. They had completed talks with students at Itumbe, Nyaronde, Mwongoli and Nyansiongo DEB primary schools. There events were scheduled on different days and spread through the month. The women spent a day in each school sharing with both teachers and students on various topics. Their presentations were based on popular education model which is very participatory and involved the teachers and students in question answer, role plays, skits/drama and educational songs on key gender topics. The key topics included discussions about FGM and encouraging the boys and girls to denounce it ones and for all. There were skits about early pregnancies and how girls become sexual prey to young men and especially when they get rides from the now very common motor-bike riders which ply in their neighborhoods as taxis. The health promoters dramatized the now too commonly known story much to the amusement of kids and teachers how ones the girl become pregnant and confronts the owner of the pregnancy, who more often than not will be a  rider rejects the girl saying “Iam not your ATM machine”. This then becomes a reminder to the girl that the money and the rides she has been getting were not for free. In other words, she allowed herself to become pregnant by allowing sex for small money or rides.

The faciliatator explained the message to the girl that in a system where men are not held accountable to their actions, girls end up being double victims and so they should take care and report promptly to teachers and parents if they are targeted by young men.

Some songs and drama raised awareness on child labor and child rights. The topic of child abuse was extremely sensitive to teachers in one school. The teacher on duty knew that the health promoters were visiting. She met the women and literary asked them not to speak to the topic of battering students. She said’ students have to undergo behavior correction using a cane. “If you tell them (meaning students) that they can’t be caned then how shall we discipline them? She appealed.  The health promoters responded humbly that they were discussing the things allowed by the constitution and guided by the child protective policy. They role played on issues of child abuse through so much labor that often stops girls from attending school or excessive beatings which discourage them from coming to school.

The children were so pleased to participate and they were asked to share experiences, and answer questions. They were also given note pads to write what they learnt, what they discovered or what suggestions or questions they had and stick them on the wall. This was very effective way of getting students feedback as they were excited in pinning their answers on the wall. Sampled repsonses include: "I discovered that child labor is abuse of children’s rights"; "I discovered that boy and girl child are equal"; "I discovered that FGM can lead to death and loss of blood";" I learnt that I could abstain from sex in order form  to complete school". Due to the positive outcome and response from the students, teachers in this school requested a separate discussion with teachers to discuss ways of dealing with students which does not necessarily involve corporal punishment. These teachers are also invited to our November training of client centered response by service providers.

Discovering that the schools have come to respect the women’s role in community intervention on GBV issues, FGM, early pregnancies and child abuse and rights transformed the way these women feel about themselves. Karen, one of the health promoters was thrilled when she reported back about the experience when she said; we really have become teachers now,” This comment resulted from more school requests from the health promoters to visit them. We had originally planned to visit two schools but ended up with four schools at the request from the neighboring schools. We still have another 4 school requests pending. We will prioritize them when we find resources.

We realize that the challenges in our community facing the girl child are many and it will take time to fully address them. We however strongly believe that the small incremental steps we are taking to empower the community tackle this issues will go a long way to change minds. We could not have done this without you, our supporters. A community where girls and women are treated as second class citizens is doomed. We invite you to continue to support us, to share information to your family and friends. Your support means a world to the girl in a very rural village and HFAW which works to bring hope to communities. Thank you!

 Sincerely,

Dr Grace Mose- Okong'o

Education through song
Education through song
Health promoter interacting with students
Health promoter interacting with students
Students Giving their views
Students Giving their views
Talk with students early for real impact
Talk with students early for real impact
Positive interaction with students
Positive interaction with students

Links:

Aug 10, 2016

AN INSPIRING ANTIFGM ROADSHOW CAMPAIGN ON JUNE 9

Kids given attention during roadshow esp, girls
Kids given attention during roadshow esp, girls

The Kenya demographic survey (KDS 2014) shows that FGM is reducing. In Kisii community however, it is stubbornly high standing at 84% preference. The Kisii community is literary among the top practitioners of the practice, only third from the more remote Somali (94%) and Samburu (86%). The slow eradication trend among the kisii is worrying because compared these other communities, Kisii is not as remote and is not completely illiterate population. But what is really disturbing among the kisiis also is the fact that the FGM victims are quite young, as young as less than five, even two years old. These cannot resist the cut nor do they know the antiFGM law.

That is why the HFAW women in collaboration with antiFGM Board and Villi Bell Foundation organized this roadshow on June 9th, 2016. The HFAW health and human right promoters took it upon themselves to create antiFGM messages and traversed through the hard to reach places in Nyamira and Kisii Counties.  The deep rural areas has seen more resistance to eradication but have also not been sufficiently reached with strong messages.  The KDS indicates that there is 9 times chances of a daughter of an uneducated women being cut compared to one whose mother has completed secondary school. Data also indicates that a girl will undergo the cut if her mother has also been cut—96 times chance as much as if the mother is uncircumcised.

The HFAW women discovered that the roadshow is one of the most effective tool in reaching out to hard to reach places. At times they got off the truck and ran and danced with song and were followed by the crowd. Sometimes the women worked with youth who dramatized the messages. Sometimes it was the mere fact that it is the village women doing the messaging, something that has not been seen before. People expect meeting by professionals in boardrooms and wondered how come now the women have taken this mantle themselves, This caused a lot more concern and more interest in listening to the messages. One woman said loud what was in her poster “not to be cut, my choice” and even translated to the kisii language as “Okwaroka yaya.” This was a crowd puller including many men.  At one moment the HFAW woman was holding a clip of photo with a girl sitting in her big pool of blood. A man moved closer and asked what this was. “Is this from a cut girl”. The women responded with a “yes”.  Several men said they wanted to be registered to join the campaign as they whistled in shock saying “This is completely unacceptable.” On this June 9th we recruited more men to the campaign than we could ever have imagined.

We traversed through over 10 local market places each time met crowds and passed on the messages not just about the effects of FGM but also on the revelation that many women cross the world “do not do this” and that empowered women do not cut the girls. That FGM is criminal offense, that it is antigovernment, that is  total abuse of human rights and handicaps a women’s health. That FGM hurts everybody in the community and that it is not allowed in the bible.

We might not have ended FGM in Kisii on one day, indeed this practice is deeply entrenched in people’s minds. Many people do not even know why they practice it other than “it is our culture.” But his day we caused a stir. Something moved. We could not have done this without you, our supporters. How can we forget some of you who have walked with us every step of the way. Melanie, Carol and Lisa, and others, Thank you!

We want to increase momentum. We have done a series of school campaigns and have others planned to happen soon.  Targeting the young is a great strategy so the message is received early enough.  We also work with community and national leaders. We can speed up process by bringing the message to the community and challenge the many boardroom meetings which are hardly felt at the grassroots. By doing the right things and targeting the community it, giving the community leadership and engaging them directly as we at HFAW are doing. Again, thank you for all your support.

HFAW women in truck passing antiFGM messages
HFAW women in truck passing antiFGM messages
Men were so attentive and a number wanted to help
Men were so attentive and a number wanted to help
Women leaders taking a stand a gainst FGM
Women leaders taking a stand a gainst FGM
People receiving anti-FGM messages
People receiving anti-FGM messages
HFAW Joyce explaining antiFGM messages
HFAW Joyce explaining antiFGM messages
Running and walking outside truck sometimes
Running and walking outside truck sometimes
Crowds hearin gmessages from our youth
Crowds hearin gmessages from our youth

Links:

May 18, 2016

Popular Education: An Idea whose time has come

Group photo of women and youth from 25 countries
Group photo of women and youth from 25 countries

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I have considerable excitement in sharing this report. Because of your donation and support, we have been able to continue training women from other countries in our transformative popular education approach.

During the month of February, HFAW was invited by the Lutheran Secretariat in Nairobi to conduct a TOT training entitled “The Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (Luccea) ToT Training for Accelerating Abandonment of FGM/Cut” on popular education to over 25 women and youth from over 9 countries in East and Central Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Eriterea, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Congo and Madagascar. This training was to encourage the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in these countries.

As you might be aware Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a huge problem throughout many countries and tribes in Africa and also in LUCCEA sub-region where for instance in Kenya it is estimated that out of 42 tribes constituting the nation, only 3 tribes do not practice FGM. The effect on the girl (physical, psychological, emotional, social and economic) is devastating on the girl/woman. It is total abuse of human right and completely strips the girls off their dignity.

 Therefore, the magnitude of the problem is considerable also  in this era where HIV/AIDS is dreaded and attracting a lot of funding but little success in eliminating it. LUCCEA secretariat wanted to find ways of overcoming mere awareness building on the effects of FGM/C but engage strong and new strategies that will end FGM/C. Popular education which has a component of critical conscious raising and whole community participatory engagement and action plans is  providing that answer. Thanks to you who continue supporting us we are able to share this new strategy. The strategy leads to a people who are self driven in addressing problems in their communities.

 The  intensive week of training workshop from February  22 through 28th, 2016 brought  together experts and member churches officers committed to end FGM/C who shared experiences and information from various sub-regions countries where FGM is rampant; learned about popular education approaches; brainstormed strategies that will accomplish campaigns that included local government and foreign partners; created powerful and winning action plans; equipped the women and youth with skills to implement the action plans; established a communication and information sharing platform (network and process) that will allow churches to deal with gender justice issues and children rights as well as embraced a human rights framework that will promote justice for all people.

Our use of simple and hands on practical and participatory approaches as well as making the training interactive with fun, exercises, song and games made the participants demand to hear more of popular education. We also made the training dramatic as we made the participants take hands on practice on how to engage others. We were also visual as we shared real life photos and documentaries of what really happens during the so called “circumcision” and engaged participants in critical questions about those photos and documentaries. Participants felt an urgency to do more and quicker to end FGM/C and also felt that this method will work to end the practice in their countries.

  " It is an idea whose time has come" said one of the participants from Kenya about popular education and ending FGM.. When we used a simple string to show how communication networks can be simplified to allow continuous sharing of this methods, there was such great learning lessons.  "Where has these approach been in the world?." Asked one of the participants from Tanzania.

One Rev from Congo  shared that she had previously been given a book on FGM to read but ignored it as she did not think FGM was significant problem of concern to her as she thought it is not rampant in her country. After this trainings she shared that she felt compelled to do something to learn more and combat FGM no matter which country is practicing it.

 A woman from Uganda was also shocked by some of the extent of FGM, the dramatic impact it has that no one had ever shared with her till this training. “Now I feel  a strong obligation to end FGM whatever it takes.” She said.

There were so many aids which lead to critical discussions including the photo clip of girl who is standing in her pool of blood-Courtesy of Douglas W. Laube, MD and a drama participants worked together to place a stick into a bottle they also learned how to build teamwork and how to create a network of communication with us and themselves—each person is connected to each other during the training and it was expected to happen in real social justice work

 The participants made overwhelming requests for plans to HFAW to provide additional trainings. Requests were made for the LUCCEA office to work with us to support implementation of an action plan and additional trainings in specific countries to ensure that each participant took actual actions in their churches as simple as including FGM issue in church programs. LUCCEA office is working to ensure that we do more trainings and support the implementation of the action plans that each participants created to go with to their own countries.

 That is why we are proud of your support. We know that little consistent steps lead to significant change. We thank you and encourage you to give us advice as we continue to deepen this work. As we spread the popular education methods we do so with a believe that it will end FGM sooner than expected. We request that you share our work with your friends and relatives and encourage them to support this work. Ones again we thank you for your contributions and sharing of our work so widely.

 With gratitude

Grace Mose-Okong’o

Community assessment done by participants
Community assessment done by participants
Hands on and participation is very practical
Hands on and participation is very practical
Participant learns to present to others
Participant learns to present to others
Creating action plans to use in home countries
Creating action plans to use in home countries
Gorup discussion
Gorup discussion
 
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