UK volunteers from the ‘Netball Development Trust’ travelled out to Uganda and Kenya this summer to support 4 of ongoing projects using the sport to educate girls on sexual health in Bungoma, Kenya; Fort Portal, Uganda; Jinja, Uganda; and Mukono, Uganda.
For the last 18 months, NDT with its local partners have integrated sexual health education into their netball program. This has enhanced coach-participant relationships and continues to open opportunities for young people to freely share and learn from each other and the trained facilitators.
While coaching netball in a few of the schools in August, the tour group led menstrual health conversations with the girls. One particularly interesting day was a session they led at “connection day” with X-SUBA in Jinja, Uganda. They ran a 45 minute netball session with about 30 girls of all ages, allowing them to show us the skills they’ve learned from the local coaches. They were then split into age groups and sat down to have different conversations about periods, depending on their understanding and experience.
There were many misconceptions, misunderstandings and fears among the girls such as a) tampons cause a loss of virginity, b) it is the egg breaking down that causes the blood to fall and c) you can’t get pregnant if you have sex during your period. Others lacked knowledge about what had happened to them when they first started bleeding.
Many were brought up not using pads, but finding scraps of cotton, foam from mattresses or socks; as they simply couldn’t afford to buy pads. Others were going to extreme lengths to raise the money (£2) to buy pads, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence.
They had honest conversations about being ‘a woman’, sharing our stories about periods (staining, abdominal pain and how netball helps) and discussed disposable and reusable pads with them.
NDT hope to provide these girls with pads in the near future, to keep them safe, hygienic and playing netball.
With partner X-SUBA (who is working in the slums of Walukuba-Masese Jinja district), they are also planning to pilot a project on menstrual health education with reusable pads to support girls that are still challenged to access these basic health needs/services in these communities. The reusable sanitary pads are being donated by Freedom4Girls, a Leeds based charity in the UK.