“I love this approach, of course it requires more time with the young girls, but its approaches like these that will have the impact we desire to see… and prevent all the unintended pregnancies we have in our country.”- Victoria Nakirut, InPact Project officer.
At 26 years old, Victoria Nakirut is the youngest staff at InPact, quite reserved but very resolute when it comes to work.
For close to one year, she has led efforts in Kyankwanzi District to sensitize adolescent girls and young women on contraception and family planning, with emphasis on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.
As a social worker, most of Victoria’s work has been focused on implementing community based reproductive health initiatives specifically in HIV and family planning. Under the USAID/Uganda Family Planning Activity (UFPA) project, implemented by InPact, Victoria was tasked with spearheading the mobilization and sensitization of adolescent girls and young women.
“We struggled to reach young people. Every Monday morning when we reviewed our performance dash board, I felt bad because it always showed poor performance on youth indicators”. Victoria shared.
She started observing how young girls behaved during community dialogues and other youth activities, and she noted that girls were not participating fully; even in female only groups. The older girls and women were more involved and active compared to the adolescent girls. It was after four months of successive dialogues that one girl walked up to her at the end of one such dialogue and asked “Why do women menstruate and boys do not?” - A question Victoria says was a game changer.
The InPact team in Kyankwanzi realized that, to many of the young girls, only sharing information about family planning and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies was an immense oversight. This was because many of them were not ready to have children yet and did not have the basic information about their sexuality and body development. The team led by Victoria, therefore decided to take a few steps back to the basics. This is when the Girls-to-Girls initiative was born.
Through the Girls-to-Girls Initiative, young girls are trained to make custom bracelets which are then used to teach them about their menstrual cycle. Small groups of girls meet four times a month, and during those meetings learn about their body development, menstruation and their cycles, sexuality, timing of pregnancy and contraception options. The first two sessions begin with every girl making her own bracelet, and as they do this, each bead on the bracelet is linked to a specific message. With these bracelets, the girls are able to also tell the safe and fertile days in their cycles. Subsequent sessions focus on sexuality, body development and using the bracelet to tell when their next period will be.
Working with some of the trained girls, Victoria and the InPact team are refining this approach into a best practice for subsequent scale up.