“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”
This quote by Henry Ford speaks volumes to how we measure success at Girl Up Initiative Uganda. We believe in working together in order to reach a common goal. In the implementation of our program activities, we collaborate with different stakeholders who contribute hugely towards the success of our work. These include local leaders, parents, teachers and so many others. Being able to effectively work together towards the realization of our vision of creating gender equal communities is a huge success for us!
In line with our focus on collaboration, from August 27th – 28th, our team organized a teacher training at Ntinda Primary School for 70 teachers (45 female teacher and 25 male teachers). The teachers were patron teachers from the Adolescent Girls Program and Boy Champions Project. Given previous discussions and feedback from the teachers, the training focused on equipping the teachers with knowledge on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and Child Protection.
The two-day training was officially opened by Monica Nyiraguhabwa, our Executive Director, who welcomed everyone for the training. The teachers then participated in a fun way of getting to know each other with an exercise led by Olivia Mugabirwe, the facilitator. The activity was followed by setting expectations and ground rules to govern the participants throughout the two-day engagement.
The first day was focused on increasing the knowledge of teachers on SRHR, which is critical to students’ academic performance. The trainer shared with the teachers that it is their responsibility to build supportive school environments to manage SRH. For instance, teachers need to be supportive to children living with HIV, those who are survivors of violence, and those going through menstruation and puberty.
The teachers were later divided into four groups and each given a topic to discuss, including sex, sexual health, sexuality, and sexual rights. The group discussions supported the learning of teachers who had interesting conversations about what they knew about the different topics. During the group presentations, it was noted that some of the teachers only knew of ‘sex’ as the act of intercourse between male and female, without knowing that it is also the biological difference between being male or female. This was critical for the teachers’ knowledge so that they were able to have informed conversations about sex with their students.
When discussing sexual health, the facilitator emphasized that we have to understand that it relates to the state of emotional and social well-being as well as physical health.
The discussion around sexuality was lively. The teachers learned that sexuality is a central aspect of being human which encompasses sex, gender, identity, gender roles and reproduction. Olivia shared that:
“Our traditions have mentored us in a way that whenever people talk about sex, it’s like we are sending the children to start having sex. The children we teach and raise are going to grow up into adults and if we keep sharing the wrong perceptions about sexuality, their relationships will be rocky.”
At the end of Day One, Teacher Ronald from Kiswa Primary School shared:
“I have learnt how important it is for me to have an open conversation with my pupils about sexual and reproductive health and rights. While carrying out guidance and counseling, I need to call a spade, a spade, not a big spoon.”
In addition to the numerous discussions on SRHR on Day One, Day Two revolved around child protection, which was led by Charity Namara, one of the facilitators. She opened the discussion by asking the participants to share what they know about child protection. The majority of the responses from the participants revolved around child protection being an act of providing a free and supportive environment for the children as well as guarding them from abuse.
Charity then defined child protection as guiding and providing a safe environment for children free from violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. It is a way of making children feel loved and it comes with responsibilities.
The response given by the facilitator birthed an interesting discussion on the impact of words that teachers use while addressing their pupils. Charity shared her own story:
“My primary three teacher always referred to me as small and very dark. He called me “dark girl” instead of referring to me by my name, which really lowered my self-esteem as a young girl. So as teachers, I urge you to always be careful with whatever you utter to your pupils.”
They went on to discuss the child protection issues from their respective schools, such as child neglect, bullying, sexual abuse by teachers, poor sanitation infrastructure, and corporal punishment. The trainer then emphasized that teachers should reflect on the consequences before punishing pupils, as it can have a permanent impact on children’s well-being and self-esteem.
The teachers then went more in-depth on Child Protection Policies so that they were equipped with the knowledge and tools to formulate their own school’s Child Protection Policies. In groups, they discussed Girl Up’s Child Protection Policy and were guided on which areas were applicable to their work.
After the discussions, the participants shared what they discussed within their small groups. One of the participants raised an issue to do with child abuse. She mentioned that in most cases when they report child abuse cases, they bounce back to them and no action is even taken. To make it worse, they are instead accused and seen as suspects.
In response, Charity encouraged them to take the cases to the next offices in command and encouraged the participants not to give up until justice is granted. Olivia also came in and advised the teachers to report to SAUTI line (116) or the Child Protection line for Communications For Development Uganda (0800200600) in case they faced a child abuse case. Much emphasis was placed on linking up with the families to protect the children and the participants were encouraged to follow up with child abuse cases
At the end of the day, teachers, in their respective school teams, were requested to reflect on the two-day sessions on SRHR and child protection, and formulate an action plan about how they will integrate child protection in their schools. The schools came up with various ideas such as: making disposal bins for sanitary pads, renovation of toilets, screening teachers before hiring, passing on their newly acquired information to other staff and teachers, forming School Child Protection Committees, and more.
Overall, the teacher training was a huge success! The teachers were very grateful for the training and appreciated what they had learnt. They promised to pass on the message to other teachers as well as start the work of promoting child protection in their schools.
Thanks to everyone who made this training a success and we look forward to conducting more teacher trainings as we continue to integrate key stakeholders into our programs!