Monday, 6 June 2016

The Tell Tale Stain - Why Menstruation Matters

Last year MH Day celebrations, we reflected on Menstruation Matters “A day we should all feel free and happy to celebrate despite the culture of silence around menstruation.”

It’s another year where we are celebrating #Menstruation Matters to everyone everywhere- I still believe that the Complexity, versatility and beauty of menstruation is still exciting and a topic to bounce happily about to everyone everywhere. But to many adolescence school going girls in Kenya, it’s still a nightmare! They’re ridiculed, they cannot talk about Menstruation openly. It’s never a Tell Tale Sign of pride it’s a curse.

When these girls are growing up they are never empowered to learn the coding if Menstruation ever came knocking; they have to figure it on their own and the experience isn’t that different from many girls we have trained on MHM, their joy is deflated and sulk all days when the ‘Tell Tale Stain’ shows up.

According to many school girls we have trained, apart from the Tell Tale Sign, the ‘why-so’ game still gets to them. “Why are you not going to school?” the parents question. To some the ‘why’ lasts up to 6 days! After they get back to school when the flow ends-the teachers don’t spare them from the “why –so question”- some go Scott free and others don’t, they’re punished for missing in class without any reason. For want of words, they just make a face. How could they explain to their teachers they were absent for lack of sanitary towels/Materials?

To them, it’s something that’s unspeakable, a horror that plague all young girls and women through their entire fertile years.

When speaking to the girls during MHM trainings; they wish they can be able to explain for missing out from school and get a comforting response from their teachers telling them “it’s your body young girl and it’s a natural process, Own it instead of hating it or fearing it”
To empower girls with the knowledge on menstruation and build their confidence including breaking the silence and taboos surrounding it, we set out to Ndanai a rural area within Bomet County. Some of the situations we found out confronting menstruating girls and putting them at risk in this area are including family living conditions, perceptions of menstruation among peers and family, girls’ knowledge about menstruation and lack of support system at home and school. For example unimproved sanitary facilities that lack privacy is one of the confronting challenges that keep girls away from school during Menstruation despite availability of managing the periods. For those girls who try to manage with the surrounding challenges they become ‘detectives’ at an early age.

In one of the schools we visited, I got a chance to remind myself of my school old days- Rope skipping.

 I noticed the girls who visited the unimproved latrines, had one girl playing detective in case the boys came closer or other girls wanted to use the facility (it was only one toilet in use). The girl acted as the privacy wall and door which was lacking.

Girls showing off their amazing jump rope skills
Unimproved pit latrine used by the girls

For the training, our target includes teachers and girls from Class four to eight. The training focuses on understanding puberty & menstruation, Menstrual Myths and Menstrual Hygiene Management. The sessions are in-depth, giving opportunity for the girls to ask questions and seek clarifications.

MHM Training Session
Menstruation is not talked about openly within the community and this was evident during the training sessions as many of the girls were shy and astonished. But at the end of the training the teachers, girls agree that the training was an eye-opener for them as far as menstrual hygiene management was concerned. Further, the training helped break certain taboos and clarify myths centred around the issue on menstruation and its management.

“Blood represents fertility and cramps represent danger and one has to be on danger alert” I would never burn sanitary towel because I will be burning my eggs and lose my chance of ever becoming a mother” one girl explained. I keep on thinking, is it because Menstruation is tracked as a taboo and that’s the reason why myths continue to live on, to be adhered to and are not questioned from one generation to another?

Girls shying off during MHM training seeing their male teacher’s demonstration on how to use the sanitary towels

Teaching about menstruation is crucial! We make it easy and open.

The girls, through the training become aware of the reproductive tract infections and of the menstrual hygiene practices that need to be followed during the menstrual days. They now understand that personal hygiene especially during the menstrual cycle is even more vital and have decided not to go back to their earlier unhygienic habits. It also instilled a sense of pride and confidence among the young girls.

Overall, our work on WINs focuses on fostering health, education and individual self-respect and addresses MHM as a key agenda. Integrating MHM into WINS has empowered students and especially encourages girls and female teachers. Further the program has drawn the attention of stakeholders particularly the county government toward this neglected feminine right in order to make our schools and communities healthier.

Menstrual Hygiene Management component is still very crucial to be integrated into all school WASH programs. Lack of awareness on menstruation and its management remains another big reason why girls stay home from school. They can lose up to five days per month, leading to loosing track of their school work and eventually dropping out.

We all know and agree that Girls’ education needs to be promoted beyond enrolment and completion, but through regular attendance as well.

Let’s talk about it open, sustain the dialogue that will make every girl and woman proud of their body and status, let’s keep all the girls in school because Menstruation Matters to everyone, everywhere.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Promoting Hand Washing With Soap among School Going Children in Kenya

A handwashing station next to a classroom
It is evident that hygiene is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions through which health and economic benefits can be maximized, saving millions of lives every year. Hand washing with soap is recognized as one such highly cost-effective public health intervention. A body of research has shown that hand washing with soap at critical times alone can reduce diarrhoea by up to 35%.

Effective hygiene promotion programming at scale is essential in improving behaviours: preventing diseases, maintaining health, and improving the full benefits of water and sanitation programs. Behaviour change is also essential to creating sustainable services and maximizing the public health impact of investments in water and sanitation. Without hygiene behaviour change, toilets might not be used, water could still be contaminated, food will continue to be also contaminated, and dignity will be compromised.

Trainer of Teacher Training 
At Dig Deep (Africa) we have been implementing hygiene promotion programs over the last four years and, in our WASH projects, behaviour change plays a central role for we believe that “ Taps and toilets don’t improve health and education, only using them effectively does”‘
Our approach has been through investing in WASH champions who are trained as Trainer of Trainers (ToTs). These include selected teachers from target schools and community health volunteers from the villages where the schools are located. They are then tasked to create awareness and disseminate the hygiene messages to children at their respective schools.

Training of WASH champions

A sample action plan written
 by teachers after TOT training
The ToTs are taken through a three day intensive training to build their capacity on the key WASH practices including water hygiene and safety, latrine use and maintenance and hand washing with soap. The training methodology is mainly facilitatory which enables participants analyse their own WASH situations and come up with actionable solutions.


Promotion of hand washing among children

The education program is then rolled out in each of the target schools where the WASH champions train their peers and children on good hygiene practices. On hand washing, pupils are taught not only why hand washing with soap/ash is important but are also shown how to wash hands properly including the critical times to do so. The children do role plays and learn songs on hand washing so that behaviour is normalized. Within the community, children act as change agents, teaching their families about hand washing and other good hygiene practices.

Enabling technologies for hand washing with soap

An innovative hand washing device

Demonstrating good hygiene practices as part of daily routines, and sustaining this behavior, requires innovation, creativity and novel approaches.  Different schools have devised their own innovative ways to promote hand washing among the children. One of these is installation of leaky tins, made of locally available materials at strategic places within the school including next to latrines, kitchen area and classrooms. These form as a reminder to wash hands and also a convenient and a fun way to wash especially for children hence increasing the rates of hand washing.

Soap securely tied to a fishing 
net to avoid wastage.
Soap is more effective than using water alone because the soap lifts the germs from skin and scrubbing hands more thoroughly when using soap further removes germs. One of the key constraints of hand washing in most rural communities and schools is the affordability of soap. Additionally, theft and wastage are barriers to keeping soap at a hand washing station hindering regular hand washing. To solve these, the schools innovated solutions to counter; these include putting up local soap dispensers.

Hygiene messaging displayed on a classroom wall
Reinforcing of messages

When an individual receives a consistent message through multiple channels it reinforces social norms around the behaviour. Similarly on hand washing, messages are reinforced through posters and talking walls within the schools hence improving on the practice.

Adoption of these good hygiene practices including washing hands with soap/ash at critical times will lead to less risk of disease which in turn will result in stepped up school attendance and ultimately country’s economic growth.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Tips from our Fundraisers

To all our amazing fundraisers, we have a very useful blog for you! We know that around deadline time it can be a bit nerve wracking and some of you may be feeling nervous or even a bit disenchanted about fundraising. This is normal, and it is definitely possible to reach your target! You may be sick of hearing that from us by now, so we asked some other students who are fundraising just like you this year about what they think has worked for them in their fundraising challenge to climb Kilimanjaro/Kenya this summer.

Have a read and a think about how you can incorporate these ideas into your own fundraising! Remember you are not alone in your fundraising. You can always ask on the I'm Doing a Dig Deep Challenge Group to see what fundraisers all over the country are up to!

Some top advice from:

Joe Roberts- Coventry University
“Always have something going on. If you're busy during a short period of time ask friends to complete a challenge or to take donation forms around their workplaces. Use social media to sell raffle tickets once you can't sell any more in person.”

Steph Wilson - Newcastle University
Steph Wilson

"I started fundraising really early and planned what I was going to do which was key for me! My Christmas raffle was a huge success and I got many donations for prizes.. If you don't ask then you don't get. I raised £675 from this and everyone was so generous. All my ideas involved people getting something back from donations such as a girls afternoon and a clay pigeon shoot. Make sure you ask people as they will be more than happy to help!"

Samantha Hope - Keele University
“Tell everyone you know about what you're doing and just ask for donations. Even if you feel like you're begging, you just have to put your pride behind you!”

Leonie Deveney – Bath Spa University
“Showing that you're making an effort. So if you have people helping you, get them a Dig Deep top to wear! I had 8 tops made and designed, so when I had family and friends helping me bag pack they were wearing Dig Deep Charity tops. This makes people ask about the charity even more!

I think the best thing about doing fundraising events is getting people to come together. When people come together, and everyone's there for the same reason an atmosphere is created and it's amazing!

Don’t give up! Keep emailing, phoning. Keep reminding people you’ve contacted that you’re still really excited about your event. Everyone comes together and it ends being totally worth all the effort!”

Leonie Deveney’s guide group on Dig Deep Day

Anna Draper – York University 

“I shared my page on Facebook all the time! Being really positive about the challenge and the charity. A few friends shared it for me too and I got a few donations from that!”

Boo Fairall - Goldmiths University 
“I know when I started I got knocked quite easily by people saying no or not responding to requests/emails etc - I've learnt that the worst that can happen is someone says no. Something that’s worked really well for me is church collections - I'm not a big church goes anymore but my Gran goes religiously. I used to sing in the choir so I've sang with them lately and they've all donated. I've also made a little A5 laminated sheet for Gran and if anyone asks about the climb or the charity then all the information is on there!”

Some Winning Ideas:

Gemma Cullen - Bath Spa University
“Contact large businesses or family members who work for large companies. There is absolutely no harm in asking!”

Sophie Magee – Kingston University
“My mum and dad have done bake sales at work and have raised in the region of 500-600 between them. I had the raffle for the world champion boxing gloves which raised I think about £450. I had a pizza night with my friends at Easter and raised over 100 there. I had an alien princess night that raised 200 and I had a bake sale with grant raising almost 80.”

Sophie Magee’s Alien Princess Night

Josephine Guy – Newcastle University  
“Live below the line was so bland but also worth it because I raised £110!”

Billy Mai Brooks – Kingston University
Billy Mai Brooks at her Lip Sync Battle
“Quizzes are easy to organise and can be for specific societies or general knowledge. They can be done through University or at local pubs so there's loads to work with! Car boot sales are beneficially for everyone if you've got a car, and I’m trying to sell more expensive/unused stuff on eBay. Also we are organising a lip sync battle which has been SO fun. You’ve just got to throw yourself out there and just start doing whatever you can!”

Robyn Armfield – Kingston University
“A weekly incoming/small side line job is good keeps the pot topping up nicely bit by bit, always giving the blue pot out to friends and family to put at their work for a couple of weeks.”

Netra Takwale - LSE
“My most successful fundraising has been cake selling in a variety of places - applying to Hummingbird Bakery/Lola's cupcakes/Krispy Kremes and having people donate money via selling those. That and Christmas carolling too!”

Harriet Brass – York St John’s University 
“I think food is always a good way to encourage people to donate, so our Big Breakfast, Cake Stall and Ploughmans at the Bingo night were all massive hits! In addition, selling bags of sweets were cheap to make and made massive profits for the fundraising. I would say that when fundraising, often bigger events are good ways to attract an audience.”

We hope this has given you some fundraising inspiration! Thanks to all our fundraisers who have so far this year raised an incredible: £224,876!