Article by Situmbeko Wambulawae and Fwilane Banda
At Project Luangwa we carry out regular Gender Clubs, designed to provide a safe space for girls, boys and young adults to constructively talk about their hopes and fears – and to learn about the importance of gender equality and respect. In today’s blog, Fwilane and Stu offer us an insight into one of the members of our clubs – Getrude Mwanza
Whenever we enter a room full of adolescent girls, we are always met with shyness. Half smiles are displayed on their faces and eyes are lowered, avoiding eye contact. They usually know that we will be discussing issues of menstruation, a topic that is usually deemed taboo and rarely discussed in a room full of people.
We first met Getrude when Project Luangwa travelled to Kapita School in Nsefu where we had a presentation on our Ufulu menstrual reusable pads. She was one of the girls excited to speak out and explain feminine hygiene to her friends, without feeling shy or embarrassed. She spoke with so much confidence and she was quick to participate, because she had been part of the girls club since she was in the 5th grade. The club is run by Vitalina, a school teacher who also mentors the girls and provides a safe space where they can be free to talk about their bodies without fear.
We were so happy to find a girl in the rural area as feisty and determined as Getrude, because girls still do not have the confidence to talk about menstruation because of cultural constraints and taboo. Club mentors in our gender clubs are very instrumental because they help us understand cultural practises in different areas, and provide insight on how we can approach the girls in the area.
Getrude made our presentation so easy, because at 13, she was able to communicate to her friends in a way that was not only relatable, but provided positive energy that encouraged her other friends to also be open and confident.
This January, we were excited to see Getrude during sponsorship because she is such a good influence on other girls. She was able to get a sponsor, and this enabled her to go into boarding school, where she has joined a new Girls club, and made new friends.
Academically, Getrude is also dedicated. She had one of the highest marks in her math finals, because she was also part of Edulution, a mathematics program that is supported by Project Luangwa.
Getrude’s favourite sport is soccer- a game that is dominated by boys. She enjoys playing it so much and her favourite position is that of striker. When she is done with school, she wants to be a nurse.
We are happy with how the Gender clubs have positively impacted Getrude and the way she presents herself to the world. They have also provided her with confidence that has helped her challenge gender stereotypes and address concerns that affect girls her age.