As much as AfricAid values girls’ education, it also values girls’ health – because the two go hand-in-hand. Girls who are healthy can more easily access education. And, girls who are educated about their health know how to look after themselves more effectively in order to stay in school. For this reason, Scholar health is one of AfricAid’s primary goals. To achieve this goal, the organization holds Health Symposiums with professional guest speakers annually in order to communicate about health and well-being to participants in the Kisa Project.
Health Symposium Reaches Over 1,500 Students in 2019
This year’s events were organized for Year Two Kisa Kisa Scholars and were held simultaneously in 5 different locations on October 5th and 12th. Geographic scope was wide, spanning 2 Regions, 5 Districts, and 25 Partner Schools.
Despite the rainy weather, the girls and the speakers eagerly showed up for the day, which started with breakfast. Traveling long distances on muddy roads shows how passionate people are about learning – and teaching – accurate heath information. Scholars also always enjoy the opportunity to mingle with girls from other schools who they may know from home.
Attendance at Health Symposium has been steadily growing over the past several years. 580 Scholars participated in 2017 and 736 in 2018. In 2019, the number jumped to 1,685.
How did we reach so many girls with this valuable information? This year, one school in the Kilimanjaro Region, Weruweru Secondary School, asked AfricAid to conduct a Health Symposium for ALL of its Advanced-Level students, not just those in the Kisa program there. The team was delighted to share the same content with 730 Form 5 and 6 girls on October 14th.
Scholars Choose Topics that Matter to Them
Similar to AfricAid’s other very large multi-day and multi-location event, Career Day, Kisa Mentors play a key role in planning and executing a successful outcome. Organizing began back in June, with a Mentor assigned as “Captain” for each location. This time, a document was distributed to the Scholars to explain what to expect from Health Symposium.
Scholars had the chance to suggest the topics that they would like to learn about. Mentors then narrowed the focus to several and set about finding speakers who are qualified and were willing to present in an age appropriate manner. These are health practitioners, as well as people who live with these issues who can speak from personal experience and share advice about how the girls can keep themselves safe and healthy. Mentors arrange meetings with these speakers in person and listen to their presentations before the actual day of the event.
Scholars also prepared for the event in advance by creating drawings, songs and dances, and speeches relating to the theme of the event, “My Health – My Priority.”
Scholars were able to ask any question that had long been on their minds and to clarify myths that they have heard. Some Scholars met with the speakers privately afterward to open up about their own health. The Mentors took the initiative to collect any questions that Scholars were unable to ask due to time constraints, email them to the speakers after the event, then provide the answers to the Scholars in their next class.
Honesty is the Best Policy
The speakers gave testimonies about their real-life experiences and the Scholars were particularly affected by their candor and found the stories relateable. Here is a sampling of what the girls learned in different areas.
The guest speaker identified different myths about menstruation and shared with the Scholars how to take care of themselves, showing them different tools including reusable pads, tampons, and the menstrual cup. She discussed how to deal with different types of pain associated with menstruation. At the Kilimanjaro events, two Binti Shupavu Mentors, Sophia and Felister, were the presenters for this topic.
HIV / AIDS
Scholars learned in detail about HIV / AIDS from professional clinicians, as well as beautiful young women who shared their stories about how they contracted HIV and how they have taken care of themselves in the years that followed. The whole group was very surprised to see them living healthy and strong. Most importantly, they told the Scholars how to avoid infection and encouraged them to go for the test to know their status.
Male and female guest speakers identified different causes of drug and alcohol abuse, including family separation, stress, and peer group pressures. Addicts are often ordinary people who have been affected by tragic events in their lives. One speaker named Jacob explained, “While receiving my medication at the Sober House in Moshi, I saw that most people who were there were people with smart minds and big dreams. When I take time to think about how I delayed my own achievements and the big dreams I have, I regret having passed through that, but I also feel pity for those friends of mine that are still chained by drugs.”
The speakers thanked the girls for being part of their ongoing recovery. “Thank you so much for this opportunity because, to us, it is a healing process. When we speak to people, it reminds us of the importance of never turning back, and of helping others not to use drugs and alcohol by looking to us as an example.”
It’s Never too Late to Learn
In addition to the girls in the audience, about 100 Partner School Liaisons, staff, and guest speakers also benefited from the events. We received feedback from the adults that they, too, were learning by attending the Health Symposiums.
“AfricAid should understand that it is bringing a great impact not only to our girls, but even to us. I keep learning each time I attend a Kisa class or event – and with this one, I have learned a lot. I appreciate what Kisa is doing.” Mister George, Kisa Liaison
“I like the way the guest speakers were honest. I learned there are different types of sexually transmitted viruses and how I can live with a person who has HIV.” Madam Light, Kisa Liaison
Scholars were overwhelmingly positive about the event and felt inspired and motivated. Many Scholars even asked if they would have the chance to have a check-up during the event.
“I liked the way the speakers presented. They were open and confident and I learned a lot from them. It was such a day of reflection. People’s real-life stories change others a lot.” Grace, Arusha Girls’ High School
“Indeed, it was a great day for me. I got to learn a lot of issues concerning my life as a lady and I promise that I will apply them in my life, school, family, society, and country at large. Thank you so much and may God bless you abundantly.” Aisha, Irkisongo Girls’ High School
We were pleased with the flow and connection between topics and the ways in which the speakers complimented each other and interacted. The ancient wisdom of Buddha tells us: “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” We are proud that our girls have this chance to learn about their health and well-being, so that their minds can stay focused and tackle whatever life throws at them!
Kisa Mentor Einoth Justine reported on the Arusha Region Health Symposiums and Kisa Mentor Sarafina Kifaru reported on the events in the Kilimanjaro Region.