On July 29, 2016, our SRHR medical facilitators held a mass campaign at Murchison Bay Primary School for 125 in-school girls to equip them with knowledge on sexual and reproductive health (SRH). At GUIU, we see a huge demand for SRH information in the schools where we work, and therefore, decided to hold mass campaigns for all girls in primary 4 to primary 7 in each school we serve so that they can obtain correct SRH knowledge and information. Not all these girls are part of our Adolescent Girls Training Program, so it important that we have interventions like the mass campaigns to reach them as well. Issues discussed during the session ranged from menstruation, peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, STDs and STIs among others. The girls were free to ask questions and receive correct information to many questions that they have on various topics.
(Photo: SRHR Specialist and Nurse, Hajara, answering the girls questions around sexual and reproductive health)
Reproductive health was chosen as a center of the discussion because it is what most interests the girls and is relevant to their daily life decisions as they grow up. By the age of 18, over 62% of young women have already had their first sexual encounter (UBOS and ICF International, 2012) and of these only 24.3% of sexually active female youth, aged 15-19, use condoms (UDHS, 2012). Therefore, the topic of reproductive health, and specifically preventing teenage pregnancy and practicing abstinence, was relevant to the girls. The facilitators explained to the girls how abstaining from sex will enable them to prevent teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and STDs and STIs.
The girls were also curious about what happens to their bodies during menstruation and puberty and many questions arose from this topic. The girls were taught how to keep clean during their menstrual periods and how to deal with menstrual pains. The facilitators also emphasized that menstruation is normal and occurs to every female, however every girl will have different menstrual experiences. Girls were also encouraged to be private about their menstruation period in order to feel comfortable and safe in society and with their peers.
Some of the questions that arose from the campaign include:
How many times should one change their pads during the menstruation period?
How do people contract STDs and STIs?
Are their possibilities that one can still have children even when living with STDs and STIs?
These questions and more were fully answered by the facilitators, and illustrated that there is a huge gap in knowledge among young girls. There is much work for organizations like Girl Up Initiative Uganda to do to ensure that all youth have correct information on reproductive health.
(Photo: The Headmaster and Headteacher presenting the mass campaign)
The girls who participated in the mass campaign told us that they wish to have more of such discussions since they remained with additional questions. After the campaign, the head teacher also appreciated the fact that this new information from GUIU will be shared with the rest of the school through their peers. Through our mass campaigns, we are ensuring that young girls in Uganda are sensitized about menstruation and puberty, and prevention of teenage pregnancies, STDs and STIs, and HIV so that they can live healthy lives and make informed sexual and reproductive health decisions.