Documenting Talking Boxes
‘This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving’s 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn’t go as planned and how they learned from it. Enjoy!’
The idea of the Talking Boxes crossed my mind when I met Serah, a 13 year old girl whose step father had been abusing sexually for over 2 months, when she reported this to her mum she took her to live with her maternal grandmother, where the uncle, her mother's brother started abusing her as well, she was so lost she did not know what to do. She was bitter that she did not want to talk, then I encouraged her to put it on paper and drop it in my office. She let it all out and we took actions that helped her move to the next level. My worry of what other girls were going through in silence brought the idea of the Talking Boxes to my mind.
I collected and wrapped the few biscuit cartons I could get, labelled the, "Speak You Mind - a problem shared is a problem half solved." A few girls shared very weighty issues, the teachers were not comfortable, they started tearing the boxes to find out what the girls were writing, especially in schools where there were trends of sexual harassment. I had to stop because they boxes would be destroyed and they were nolonger private. When I resisted, the teachers stopped me and the project collapsed.
I did not give up, I found a well wisher who helped me to make wooden lockable boxes which we fixed in school on locations identified by the girls, where they would feel comfortable putting their anonymous notes. We locked the boxes and kept the keys with us, we would only visit the schools on weekly basis to collect the contents. Some teachers further made space keys, some moved the boxes in their offices citing security issues. We came up with an idea to have a spare padlock in the office which we would change to a school and take the other padlock to another school. The teachers then started asking for to be paid to allow us work with the kids, this was tough the project had no funding completely through it was very effective. We had no option at this stage but to let go for a while.
Our next strategy to get this going was to get the school girls as our allies, through trainings, our girls understood the importance of the boxes and internalized the fact that the boxes are for their own benefit and not the teachers, the girls became our Ambassadors. Through Globalgiving funds, we have been able to brand these Ambassadors who feel proud and with power that they do not allow anyone to mess up our project in schools. The project has so far been documented as the best avenue to girls liberation, we currently work with 17 schools across Kibera Slums. We have 25 pending applications from schools that have developed interest in working with us. The girls tell other girls from other schools about the benefits of our programs which serve more that 1200 girls. We just got into partnership with UNFPA who would like to support us to reach more schools in Kibera and beyond. The project is so much of a success, we have managed to get data on issues that affect girls that many have never talked about.
My persistence created a unique platform that enable girl to open up on their deeply rooted secrets so that they can be helped. We are growing and changing lives across Kibera and beyond.