Global Health graduate student and Peace Corps Volunteer Aditi Desai recently reported from Uganda, where she is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer through the Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI) program. There are currently seven graduate students from the College of Public Health serving as Peace Corps Volunteers around the world through the PCMI program.
Aditi will be completing her two years of Peace Corps service this fall. The following comes from a recent blog posting where she discussed an exciting project she is working on to introduce reusable menstrual pads and a reproductive health and puberty curriculum in local schools:
I recently began a reusable menstrual pads (RUMPs) project which I had been planning with Brick by Brick, an NGO in Kalisizo, for months. It was nice to finally have the project on the ground and not just see it on paper as something that might happen one day.
The first part of the project was a training of trainers (TOT) for teachers working at primary and secondary schools around Kalisizo. We have implemented the RUMPs project in three primary schools and one secondary school, so we held a training session for the teachers so they could be well versed in how to make these reusable menstrual pads as well as other subjects on reproductive health and puberty. The TOT went very well; all the teachers were very enthusiastic about learning how to create the reusable pads. We had 13 teachers total, 9 females and 4 males. It was amazing to see how much the male teachers embraced the project. I think one of my greatest fears was that the male teachers would be less involved, allowing the vicious cycle of gender inequality to continue. This TOT, however, really showed me that there is a potential for change and that even the older Ugandan men want this change to happen. They want their young girls to be empowered and want to give them skills to help them succeed in life.
So far we’ve done initial sessions with all the schools and will be beginning the second sessions which are about puberty and menstruation. The puberty sessions will be targeted to males and females. This is going to be a key area where the male teachers can make a difference. We want to teach both genders about the changes in puberty that occur to both genders, normalizing puberty. The male teachers have a real chance to change the young boys, preventing young girls from being teased just because their changes are more visible than the boys’.
Other sessions we plan to include are teaching the young girls how to make the RUMPs, teaching them about sexual health, prevention of HIV and STIs, nutrition, and hygiene. This program will last many weeks, hopefully ending at the end of the term. I hope to be able to use this for my Special Project, allowing me to graduate in December. I think this project has real potential, not just for the young girls but for youth in general. By allowing the girls to make their own sanitary pads, not only will they be allowed to attend school during their periods, but they will be able to start small businesses if they want. They could make and sell these pads to their peers, allowing them to go further in life.
I may sound naive, but doesn’t it take one small spark to start a fire? Who knows…this could be just the spark Kalisizo needs.
For more information about the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at the USF College of Public Health, visit http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/peacecorpsmi.html. For more information about the Brick by Brick organization, visit http://www.brickbybrick.org.