Foundation a lifeline for girls

SPF tackles issues to empower BCM schools

THE Small Projects Foundation’s (SPF) Bright Futures Programme has supported and improved the learning experience of girls and young women in various under-resourced schools around the Buffalo City Metro (BCM) area.

Tackling one of the most serious and pressing issues, the SPF have managed to alleviate and support vulnerable girls and young women, lessening absenteeism in the process.

“Once young girls hit puberty, they become vulnerable in terms of teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse and gender discrimination,” managing director Paul Cromhout said.

SPF’s various women empowerment initiatives target this problem and the foundation have seen significant improvements in the community.

Managed by Thandile Mboxela, the women empowerment initiatives started out as HIV/Aids prevention programmes, teaching healthy lifestyles to both boys and girls.

“Girls have special needs while growing up and need a safe place where they can have a conversation and ask questions,” Cromhout said.

“Often, once girls start menstruating they stop going to school for those few days. Missing a few days every month means they often fall behind and end up dropping out of school.”

In order to counter-act these issues, the SPF’s women empowerment initiative targets areas such as an unwillingness to teach or talk about sexual health and a lack of means to purchase pads.

“LO [life orientation] teachers are often not willing or do not have the materials to have a conversation and teach pupils about their bodies and rights, particularly as women,” Cromhout said.

The SPF utilises Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) and Learner Support Workers (LSWs).

The youngsters start out as volunteers and are trained through the SPF to become councillors and healthcare workers. They receive a stipend once fully trained and employed by the SPF. The LSWs hold women’s group meetings and clubs designed for girls to talk and receive guidance on various topics affecting their lives.

“The Stay Free to Learn initiative has been really successful, as we had Johnson & Johnson who handed out pads to the girls. Coupled with the women’s clubs, young girls are becoming more careful, comfortable and hopeful about their futures,” Mboxela said.

Over the past year, the SPF have managed to see a 50% decrease in absenteeism and 50% decrease in dropouts in the schools they have supported with its various women’s programmes.

“The thing about our methods is that they are sustainable. Should the SPF leave, the community can succeed on its own,” said Mboxela.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE: Small Project Foundations workers hand out sanitary towels and discuss sexual health issues with young high school girls

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