Early this year CREW trained 10 mentors on trauma healing skills, the mentors in return conducted a two-day workshop for 242 adolescent girls from three (3) secondary schools namely; Promised Land, Juba Day and Don Bosco Senior Secondary school. The mentors for the two days while engaging with the girls in smaller groups were able to help the girls understand Trauma and Trauma overview, Symptoms and triggers of trauma, wounded-ness and psychosocial well-being, Mindfulness and the phases of healing, how to respond to trauma with self and how to help others, Emotional regulation, Mentoring and support system, Safety and relationships, IASC guidelines on mental health and Communication and Self-care. These mentors further encouraged those who didn’t feel ready and comfortable enough to share their issues before the group to write on paper and had private one-on-one sessions with each of them over tea and lunch breaks. An approach that gave the girls the confidence to participate and speak up.
As a result of this out of school intimate engagement, the girls’ academic performance immensely improved in their next term. Don Bosco Secondary school had a total number of 21 girls (best performers) leading in all the classes. The school had to organize a celebration to recognize the girls and invited CREW to celebrate with them. “We owe this improvement of these girls’ performance to CREW, this is the fruit of your talking to these girls” says the Principle. They did it, our little angels broke the school record and made us so proud. Sometimes all you need is someone to just talk to, someone who can help you lift some of the baggage you are carrying.
In October, we organized another 3 days’ half day workshops but this time within the school premises and brought the mentors to engage with the girls again. The half day workshops were organized per school. This was simply;
- To ensure the numbers per mentor were really smaller to give each mentor ample time to engage with each girl, and
- To instead use the money that would have otherwise been spent on hiring a venue, transportation costs, snacks and refreshments…etc. to procure sanitary towels and washing soap for the girls. Lack of proper menstrual hygiene management products is one of the main challenges that’s is affecting these young girls’ school attendance on monthly basis. Being the final term of the year, and knowing that some of these girls are preparing for their National Examinations, we knew what keeping them in school during these days for those few remaining months would mean to them.
These mentors were able to reach out to 455 girls as compared to the 242 girls during the first joint two- day workshop that was held outside the school premises. And each girl got three (3) packets of sanitary pads and two (2) bars of soap at the end of each day.
The girls where excited to have received the sanitary pads because due to poverty many of them lack the basic support from their parents, and if they got it’s never enough.
The girls acknowledged and really appreciated the fact that their mentors are in touch with them. This workshops gave these girls an opportunity to speak up
However, not all of them were able to open up/speak up. Especially the girls who missed the previous two-day workshop and were meeting some of these mentors for the first time. Some really have a lot of stress and trauma from the violence they have experienced and just didn’t feel ready enough to share.
The girls wish to have more trauma healing sessions as the previous ones were very helpful to them and they hope these kinds of engagements will be frequent because building relationships and trust is a process and they need that with their mentors. They also shared how the sessions are helping them build their confidence as they start to feel better after speaking up about some of the things they have never shared with anyone in their lives. The fact that most of their mentors are young women makes them feel comfortable enough and trust that this really is a safe space for them.
Some of their key recommendations included;
- Need for sex education. At family level sex is not a conversation parents/guardians have with their children. On the other hand, the South Sudan education curriculum has not really embedded this aspect in the curriculum. These adolescent girls lack information about sexual and reproductive health in general, unwanted teenage pregnancy is one of the main reasons most of these young girls drop out of school and married off at an early age
- They need to have more trauma healing sessions not in their schools but wish this could be extended to other schools if possible to initiate the idea of ‘speaking up’ among the girls.
- There is need to advocate for reduction of the prices of sanitary towels because many girls across the country can’t afford to buy enough pads because it is too expensive.
- They also suggested that the sessions be in really smaller numbers and a little longer to give each and every one ample time to engage with the mentors