PCSE Seed Grants in Action: the second report from Faye Phillips ’13 with Maji Safi in Tanzania

In April 2013, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awarded five seed grants to Wesleyan students embarking on high-impact projects around the globe. Each grant recipient is reporting back about his/her work with blog posts and photos. Here’s the second one from Faye Phillips ’13, who designed and implemented the Women and Girls Hygiene program for Maji Safi Group, which was founded by Max Perel-Slater ’11 and has many students and alumni involved as staff and volunteers. If you don’t already know about Maji Safi, check out their website and our blog posts about them.

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Jambo from Shirati! 

I am thrilled to report that the Maji Safi Group Girls Hygiene Program is now well underway with a great group of girls and a wonderful pair of group leaders.  The group leaders, Judith and Linda, are two women from Shirati who have both had substantial community health work training.  For Judith, as a Maji Safi Group “Water Ambassador,” she is an expert in disease prevention, hygiene and sanitation and she knows well the adolescent girls who frequent the Maji Safi Office.  Linda has worked extensively in HIV care centers and in sexual health education, and the pair of them form quite the dynamic duo leading the female hygiene group.

In our first planning meeting together, Judith, Linda and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of two different ways to structure the program.  The first was to hold our group meetings in different classrooms at the local schools each week, which would maximize the number girls exposed to this vital information about their changing bodies.  The second idea for structuring the group was to hold group meetings at the Maji Safi community room with fewer girls who would return each week.  We decided on this second model — the “safe space” philosophy.  Meeting in a place other than a classroom would be freeing, we thought, and would encourage the sharing of personal stories and concerns more effectively.  We decided that we would work with this group of eventually twenty or so adolescent girls, get them feeling comfortable with each other and with menstruation information and know-how, and eventually empower them to become community leaders themselves.  As “junior ambassadors,” they would be known around the Shirati community as approachable and knowledgeable peers with accurate information about female hygiene,and adolescent growth and changes more generally.

With this goal in mind, we held our first meeting and we were very pleased to have eleven eager girls in attendance.  We talked about the physiology of puberty and menstruation, had several demonstrations of how some of the hygienic materials work, and fielded many, many questions.  The second meeting was even better as the girls relaxed and swapped stories while we all munched on biscuits.  We encouraged them to invite their friends to join us next week for more learning and chatting. The prospects of this group are very exciting, and I have no doubt our numbers will double in no time!

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