By Roberta Porter, Rotary E-Club of District 5450
I was shocked and stunned as I sat in silence listening to the pain in my daughter’s voice. She was calling me from Kenya where she had travelled as a volunteer with an Australian volunteer organization.
She described witnessing first-hand the impact poverty was having on the health and wellbeing of families and especially the children she was working with. The main focus for her at that time was lack of education about puberty, sexual health, and sexual violence.
She returned to Australia with a burning need to take action. After a quick fundraising campaign, she returned to Kenya and enlisted the services of Ujamaa Africa to provide a gender-based violence prevention program. Having completed the program in one school, she decided to go back and run the program in another school. We decided it was now time to talk to Rotary.
My husband and I are members of Rotary and have many contacts within the clubs in the Townsville North Queensland area of Australia. Victoria was invited to speak at a number of these clubs and at the district conference. She was overwhelmed with the support she received and was able to return to Kenya the following year and bring the program to another large school in this same community.
Earlier this Rotary year, I listened to 2021-22 Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta urge members to make empowering girls a priority. This time I turned to my own club and was delighted when the board agreed to make the Kitengela school sexual health initiative one of their 20th year celebration projects.
By this time Victoria had become a Rotarian herself, appreciating the power of Rotary in her work. She established an NGO www.jifunzeinternational.com which now works with Rotary clubs across the world and Rotaract clubs in Kenya.
With a grant from the Rotary E-Club of District 5450 and some additional sponsorship money from Jifunze International and clubs in Rotary District 9560 (Australia), we were able to provide comprehensive training for both the girls and boys.
The program includes
- Puberty and sexual health education, including self-defense.
- Assistance for children experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse, including pathways for heath checks and counselling sessions.
- Data collection around children affected, this helps to inform where future projects can be directed.
Results from the reviews carried out indicate that following training there is a 47% decrease in rape cases, 52% of girls put their training into use to prevent an assault, 74% of boys trained successfully stopped an assault, and there was a 46% decrease in pregnancy and related school dropouts.
During the training in Kitengela an opportunity was given to our club to witness the classes in progress. We were given time to speak to the educators and get a real understanding of what the lessons involved.
This project was so much more special for our e-club because of the international involvement of clubs such as the Darwin Sunrise Rotary Club, Townsville Central Rotary Club, Ross River Rotary Club, Rotary E-Club of Outback Australia in District 9560, and the Rotaract Club of Kitengela. (Earlier projects had been supported by the Rotary Club of Mundingburra, Rotary Club of Darwin South, Rotary Club of Mareeba, and Rotary Club of Townsville Sunrise, with support from Rotary District 9560.)