A key aspect of our work is supporting children and young adults through some of the most challenging periods of their lives
When a child is the subject of any form of violence or abuse the effect can be traumatic. The suffering, loss of self-respect and loss of faith in those around them may affect the child for the rest of their life as well as impact all future relationships and education. Violence towards children and, in particular, violence and sexual abuse of girls is a worldwide problem, but in many parts of Africa it is even worse due to some traditional beliefs and a limited access to support groups.
Project Luangwa helps girls and boys who are the victims of abuse by securing them a good education, providing advice about the relevant organisations and departments that can help them and offering counselling and encouragement. These children need to know that they are not being judged and that they can turn to someone for help, advice and support.
We arrange school sponsorship for vulnerable children who show potential; some are orphans, the daughters of prostitutes, come from homes where they may be in danger or have issues preventing them from doing well at school. To some students we offer the chance to board at school and this can improve their academic performance, often quite dramatically. You can find out more about sponsorship here.
Girls and Boys Clubs
In 2013 Project Luangwa started a ‘pilot project’ Girls’ Club at Mfuwe Day Secondary School for the girls under our school sponsorship scheme. Three years later we now have twenty clubs, including three at Mfuwe Day and more clubs at outlying rural primary schools. We have seen how the girls in our clubs develop increased self-esteem, confidence and a proactive approach to life rather than an attitude of waiting for something to happen to them. They are more comfortable talking about personal issues, reporting abuse and understanding how important it is to support each other. Many tell us how they feel more in control of their lives and are in a better position to make choices about marriage, schools, careers and sex as well as being more empowered to say ‘No’ when propositioned by boys, members of the extended family or adults in authority.
Gender clubs have been instrumental in changing attitudes, and we notice a marked difference in improving understanding and respect between genders after only 6 months.
Club members have mixed and varied backgrounds; some have a child of their own, others have experienced abuse or rape or violence, or have a parent who abuses alcohol. Others are just 'ordinary' girls struggling to make sense of their changing bodies and feelings whilst trying to balance their traditional culture beliefs and treatment with the pressures to conform to a more modern society. They are all bright, intelligent, caring girls who want to achieve their potential. And they all deserve a chance.
At club meetings we give students the space to chat, voice their opinions and ask questions. Most meetings are all about increasing self-esteem and confidence. Our activities are varied and include self-empowerment exercises, talking to role models, chatting about our hopes, fears and feelings, looking at post-school possibilities and opportunities such as college or learning new craft and technical skills - but sometimes we just spend time having fun too!
Menstrual Hygiene Management
Many girls in rural areas of Zambia have little or no access to disposable sanitary wear. We found that because of this many girls who have reached puberty may miss up to a week of school in every four - that's 25% of their education - and that can add up to 18 months of lessons between grade 5 and completion of school. This can have obvious consequences regarding success with education and their final exams.
Cultural Beliefs and Taboos
The many tribes throughout Africa have different beliefs; for example some women believe that by burning used pads, they are burning their unborn children and here in South Luangwa there is a widely held belief that your menstrual blood can be used against you in witchcraft.
Making Pads in the PL Women's Craft Workshop
Early in 2015 we taught several local women to sew and they started producing pads for sale shortly afterwards. Our all-in-one pad design uses 3 to 5 layers of bamboo fleece as an absorbant layer and a layer of PUL fabric (PUL is waterproof but breathable material). These layers of bamboo and PUL are encased in two layers of soft brushed cotton worn next to the skin and an outer layer of bright, fashionable and prettily patterned cotton. The pads are fastened in place with a single plastic KAM popper, and are safe and hygienic.
We also carry out sensitisation visits with communities and our 'mentors' are trained to help local girls with any questions or problems they may have.
Learn how you can also help here.