So a couple of months ago I emailed Family Planning International to say that I was interested in doing an internship or some voluntary work for them, because I’d become very interested in sex positivity and sex education and they were the leading organization in New Zealand doing work in those areas. I got a polite reply from their manager, Jess Ducey, which said they weren’t looking for anyone right now but they might be soon and that I should send in my CV so they could look at my skillsets and see how they might match up with their needs.
I did that, and then I didn’t hear anything for a while, so I started doing voluntary work with a non-profit organization called Rape Prevention Education and writing this blog. I kind of forgot about Family Planning while I was busy doing other things. But two weeks ago, Jess emailed me again saying they needed someone to help out with a sex education project and asking if I was still interested. I quickly told her I was and we set up a skype call (FPI is based in Wellington) to talk about it.
The Sistas Savve Project is a two-year program that’s just wrapping up in the Solomon Islands. It was designed to address the lack of education of Solomon Islander women, specifically in the areas of sex, health and reproduction, and gender rights. It also sought to empower these women through imparting knowledge of how to build and run a business. The program ran three days a week over a ten week period, with morning sessions covering the theoretical topics (gender, human rights, nutrition, etc.) and afternoon sessions teaching work skills and specific craft skills such as bead making and basket weaving. Over the two-year period, the workshops were re-crafted with the input of Solomon Islands women and tailored to ensure they met their needs.
Now, however, FPI wants the program to be able to be recreated in other under-educated parts of the world. Jess wants to develop all of the training materials and information they’ve been using into a structured curriculum that is no longer specific to the Solomon Islands, but will remain relevant to the lives of women in other under-educated parts of the world. This is how she came to create my role: she needed someone to rewrite the curriculum so that it can be used in new locations, and she thought that with my background in education I might be interested and capable of helping out. I spent a few days reading through the materials she sent me (there are a lot of them), and then set out on figuring out which parts of it match up with which modules in the curriculum as it currently stands and thinking about how the workshops can be made better. I think it’s going to be a lot of work, especially since I’m also balancing a lot of other commitments right now, but I’m really grateful for it all the same. It’s incredibly exciting to think that I’ll be contributing to such a wide-reaching project.
You can read more about the project on their blog http://sistassavve.blogspot.co.nz/. It includes success stories of past participants such as Nancy Metuo, who completed the training in November 2012 and has since gone on to develop a successful business selling paper-bead jewelry with a fellow Sistas Savve graduate. By developing key skillsets and knowledge of business management, women like Nancy have been able to become financially independent and are now able to support their families. One of the unfortunate side-effects of this, though, is that some of the markets in these communities have become saturated with more artisans than they could ever support. This is one of the problems that we’re seeking to improve in re-formatting the curriculum. We’ll be focusing more on transferrable work skills and less on specific craft skills, so that the participants still have the knowledge to create their own business if they wish to, and others can seek employment in other ways.
Some of the former graduates provide great examples of how this can take form. Lona Lapo, a 24 year old woman who graduated from the Sistas Savve training in August last year, is now working full-time for a local press company, and says the budgeting skills she learnt through the program were central to improving her life. Other graduates are now facilitating workshops for Sistas Savve themselves. Some have been hired by their partner organisations, Solomon Island Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) and the Solomon Islands YWCA.
I’m really excited about this, and I’m hoping to write in more detail about what I’m working on in a couple of weeks when I’m not quite so busy and I’ve got more of it done. So stay tuned for future updates!