Our Project at Msasani Primary School
Our project with local girls was held at Msasani Primary School, in Dar es Salaam. Over a course of 4 days, we worked with all 5th and 6th grade girls and some 4th graders as well, teaching them about menstruation to eradicate myths and to form confidence in them about how they are. We encouraged the girls to share what they had learnt in the sessions with other girls so that knowledge could be spread.
Reflection on the Sessions (by Paula)
Coming from a family where education was emphasized highly, and an environment where one’s social background automatically guaranteed the fulfilment of one’s basic needs, I never imagined how it would be to be in a situation where my primary needs would not be met. Have you ever considered how incredibly lucky you are to sit in front of this computer screen right now? You have access to Internet, you have enough food, and you have probably enjoyed a high-level secondary education. This is not the case everywhere. Right down the street from our international school here in Dar es Salaam, there are people who have to beg for their daily bread. Others do not have access to good secondary, or even primary education.
For girls specifically, the importance of education on the topic of menstruation is a vital part of growing up. Being informed about hygienic aspects, knowing what is good for one’s body and what isn’t, is remarkably important guidance to a healthy and long life.
In order to do something against many girls’ discrimination in Tanzania, I decided to take action. I went to a primary school in the Masaki district in Dar es Salaam, and informed girls about menstruation. I first worked with a smaller group of 16, who then taught their peers afterwards (with some help from me). I had assistance from translators in order to overcome the language barrier, as I do not speak the local language Kiswahili. We tackled issues including the proper hygienic procedures during one’s period, social perception and myth-eradication, and hormonal problems during the menstrual cycle. Despite the topic being a taboo in many Tanzanian families, the vast majority of girls were open to discussion, and the gaining of new knowledge on the issue. They jumped into the unknown, not knowing me, yet allowing me to discuss such a sensible topic with them. We did all kinds of activities: we had station work and worksheets, did theatre sketches on PMS, and created posters before and after the seminar. It was heart-warming to see the girls so engaged in the topic, so eager to learn. Obviously not all sessions went according to plan, and improvisation was required from time to time; but I think this is a universal teaching issue, and is not due to the circumstances under which I was teaching. Nevertheless, the interaction with the girls, their appreciation and excitement are something I will never forget.
Each time I walked out of the classroom, I had a feeling of having accomplished something. It is that feeling when you know you have done something good; you have contributed to the well being of somebody else. As I saw the great differences in living standards between the girls and me, I could value my opportunities and circumstances more than ever. I knew these girls do not travel to other countries during their vacation, nor do they go to universities abroad. But knowing you have made a change in their daily lives, however small, makes you feel better about the privileged situation you are in. “Life is a lottery” (Emma Baxendale), and I think those who hit the jackpot of growing up in good conditions should, from time to time, help those who do not have the same opportunities. Not only does it make you feel good about yourself, but it also makes this world a better place.