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Answering the Experts questions:
1) SAFECO’s Itombwe Center compound is made up of 3 buildings. Besides the main office building, there is a dedicated building for the Keep Girls in School program. The building includes a sewing room, an office, and a boarding room that can house up to 8 young women (4 bunk beds, a small sitting room, a changing area with a very large wardrobe, and a bathroom). The third building houses the kitchen for the Center and is coupled to a multipurpose/dining hall. The Itombwe Center has all facility, including solar energy and satellite internet for reporting and staying in communication. SAFECO has 3 full-time staff living at the Center, a facility director and two program managers; two men and a woman. Some young women working the Keep Girls in School program live at the Center and some in the surrounding villages areas.

As far as distribution and support of the Girl Ambassadors during implementation, we will do as we have been doing for the last two years; use our Toyota Land Cruiser to taxi the team and the material to the various schools that are some distance away, with the team based and housed at the Itombwe Center “Keep Girls in School house” for the duration of the project implementation.

For this project, the Girl Ambassador presentation, performance, and sensitization team will paid for the duration of the project out of the project budget, according to the amount allocated by the budget to support the Girl Ambassador portion of the project.

The Keep Girls in School team is supported through Stay in School kit sales. Each Stay in School kit has a retail value of $8: $5 in cost of material, and $3 to pay seamstresses, marketers and some overhead.

2) The idea of making this program sustainable and particularly one in which the community has some personal investment, is the idea we have actually given the greatest amount of consideration. Up to now, we have only given a relatively few kits away as charity – to orphans and women police officers.

About driving down the cost, we have looked extensively at procuring material from other sources and have learned that not only are we getting a really good price on material from Days for Girls USA, but the quality is also without comparison. The colors would run, especially when wet, in other material we bought, and we didn’t feel the quality would last the 3-year life expectancy that we have with the USA procured material. As well, the PUL (waterproof material) for the panty shield is made in the USA.

About the reason for offering the kits at no cost: This is a specific project with specific project goals and funding. What we are proposing in this Idea is saturating the need of adolescent girls in this immediate area with the feminine hygiene kits, to create a measurable outcome.

The target beneficiaries of the project will be the 608 adolescent girl students of the 25 schools in the surrounding area of the Itombwe Maman Shujaa Center, to create a base of users from which to monitor and evaluate the impact of the kits on two critical issues: school attendance and the individual lives of girls (early and forced marriage). For instance, right now, there are 328 girls enrolled in Primary 1 (1st grade), but only 20 girls enrolled in Secondary 6 (12th grade). If every girl of menstruating age is equipped with a feminine hygiene kit, we would be able to evaluate the impact of adolescent girls having kits on school attendance, school grades, national test scores, etc., as the years go by.

In summary, the unique aspects of the Idea we are proposing are 1) adding the trained Girl Ambassadors into the mix to dramatically elevate the level of community sensitization, 2) creating a pocket group of adolescent girls in the vast region from which to monitor and evaluate the impact of a feminine hygiene solution to stay in school and out of the cultural paradigm of early and forced marriage.

3) It is important to understand that these Stay in School kits used to be taboo to talk about in our area. By simply introducing the kit, we are breaking down barriers for girls and their moms. Sharing a kit with a girl opens up the dialog about what menstruation is about, and how proud they should be that they are women and able to bear the next generation of our society. As well, we introduce conversations about family planning, letting them know point blank that they are able to get pregnant and need to be well aware of this fact. We are able to have a lot of girl on girl conversations on many girls-centric topics.

SAFECO is in partnership with the Congolese government agency, PNMLS, which is the HIV/AIDS prevention agency. They give us cases of condoms and are very supportive of any sensitization work we do in this remote mountainous region – so they can take credit. Adding condoms to the contents of the Stay in School kits for adolescent girls is possible.

Thank you so much Valerie!

Neema

That would be wonderful! Neema@HeroWomenRising.org
Thanks YOU!