PCSE Seed Grants in Action: the third report from Faye Phillips ’13 with Maji Safi in Tanzania

In April 2013, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awarded five seed grants to Wesleyan students embarking on high-impact projects around the globe. Each grant recipient is reporting back about his/her work with blog posts and photos. Here’s the third and final report from Faye Phillips ’13, who designed and implemented the Women and Girls Hygiene program for Maji Safi Group, which was founded by Max Perel-Slater ’11 and has many students and alumni involved as staff and volunteers. If you don’t already know about Maji Safi, check out their website and our blog posts about them.

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faye

Faye Phillips ’13

After six weeks of planning, preparation, and successful implementation, I felt confident and excited about the newly founded Female Hygiene Program of Shirati, Tanzania.

Looking back, some of my most memorable experiences were before we even had our first program meetings. In designing the group, I spent time with the program leaders (who are two local community health workers employed by the Maji Safi Group, Judith and Linda) learning a lot about what it means to be a women in Shirati and the challenges it poses.  It was particularly interesting for me to learn about the myths surrounding menstruation that circulate among so many young girls without proper knowledge.  Judith and Linda had told me that at the sight of first bleeding, many girls think they are being punished or that something has gone horribly wrong in their bodies.  As teachers are mostly male in Tanzania, the girls do not feel comfortable turning to them for help or understanding.  Because my upbringing had been so different from this it was hard to imagine, but on the first meeting of the Female Hygiene Program, these were the first topics to be broached by the students in attendance.  The “True” or “False” exercises we did in the meetings were some of the most useful exercises for the girls, and it was amazing to see the sense of empowerment that came with knowing the right information and the physiology to back it up.

Because this program has been off to such great start, Maji Safi Group plans to expand the Female Hygiene Program into the neighboring village as well.  Hopefully, as the girls spread their knowledge about menstruation and puberty and spread the word about the Female Hygiene Program, groups like these can exist in many villages and girls will feel well-prepared and well-informed about their changing bodies.

With the leadership of Judith and Linda and the eager participation of the girls of the village, I am certain that this program will fulfill the tremendous potential it demonstrated during my stay in Shirati.

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