Teachers in Nyanza district educate young females to avoid early pregnancies and prevent sexual harassment against them. Mr. Jean De Dieu, Head-teacher at Kavumu Catholic school, disclosed where they get incentive to keep going.
The 41-years old man, is the school head teacher at Kavumu Catholic primary school located in Busasamana sector. He lives with his spouse and their two children in Nyanza district.
Kavumu Catholic Primary School has 1238 students, including 628 boys and 610 girls. Student enrolled in Speak Out project are 164, including 131 girls and 33 boys from 11 classrooms.
Jean de Dieu supervises sports activities in primary schools at sector level. Dieu revealed that in the past five years, Kavumu Catholic Primary School experienced a huge number of girls’ dropping out, owing to being impregnated at early age. He said that teen pregnancies happened to be a serious challenge not only to the school but also to the whole community.
To him, Speak Out Project drew attention to the challenges facing the community girls whom used to be shy to speak in the public, especially when it comes to narrating about stage of their body development leading them to be raped and keep silent until signs of pregnancy show up.
“Girls who were violated could not report their cases and even their parents would keep silence. It was always the responsibility of the school to find out what happened to the girls who would be no longer attending school and in that time, we, as teachers, would know they were impregnated,” Jean de Dieu said.
It seems that the school would hardly make it alone without ActionAid program funded a construction of at least seven classrooms, including girls’ room' which literally a safe space for girls to freely share their opinions and experiences on evolving of their bodies such as menstrual period.
De Dieu continued to confide that majority of girls at the school have been aware of their month and that he is confident they are going to attract attention of others.
“Speak Out project is a good project which empower girls with skills and knowledge on prevention and Sexual reproductive health rights. I noticed that sessions in the safe spaces are held smoothly with the support of mentors. The way they sit is so much engaging and everyone is encouraged to actively participate. Girls are open to share what they know and are later given the right information. They have learnt their body parts and bodily changes during adolescence. They are not shy when discussing reproductive health and I think this will help them take control over their bodies,” Jean de Dieu explained.
Students at Kavumu Catholic Primary School and other schools are sponsored by Speak Out Project that has been empowering them with knowledge on gender based violence and reporting channels. They were also given booklets regarding laws and toll-free numbers which are used in reporting cases on violence. These booklets are not only red by children but also parents .
“The project has registered good results especially in enhancing girls’ knowledge on gender based violence and sexual harassment, by building their self- confidence. They are not only free to discuss any case on sexual violence but also interact with their mentors on social issues'', he added.
Unlike other projects that empower girls, Speak Out as well supports boys and girls with disabilities.
A safe space is a neat room where girls from age nine to eighteen years meet and discuss gender based violence, their body changes in teenage and how to behave themselves in the society, notably with their parents. Students in school clubs have learnt initiating discussions about sexual harassment with their parents.
As a way of guiding students for self-reliance, Speak Out Project created small group for saving. This aims at promoting a culture of saving in children from their young age. Children savings are then invested in buying domestic animals which children can sell when they need money. Saving and being able to buy something for themselves prevent girls from being enticed to premature sexual relations which most girls say it is due to poverty.
“In terms of students’ performance in class, students enrolled in Speak Out project are confident to answer in class, their performance is better than those not enrolled in the project,” Jean de Dieu said, concluding that he urges parents to find time to hold conversations with their children especially on sexual reproductive health rights as a way of equipping them with knowledge of their bodies and how to behave during puberty.