A story from Cairo by Pierre, our International CYTI Alliance Coordinator.
Friends and its partners work with street children and marginalized youth providing a wide range of educational activities such as literacy and numeracy, vocational training and education on local culture and traditions. Life skills education is a very important part of these activities.
Friends defines life skills as information provided to its beneficiaries enabling them to make informed choices and decisions to ensure their physical and emotional safety. Main topics covered by life skills education are hygiene, nutrition, reproductive health, STDs (including HIV/AIDS), drugs, safe migration and any other topic relevant to the context it is presented.
Some of these topics are quite difficult to address as they often relate to cultural or religious taboos. We recently had a very interesting (and fun) experience in Cairo with our CYTI Alliance partner and member FACE, an NGO working with street children and youth in Cairo.
It was planned that my colleague Lucie (our Life skills specialist amongst many other things) would come to Cairo and work with the FACE team designing curriculum and child friendly educational materials. It was decided we’d start working on the most needed and simple topic first – hygiene. Although the cultural context in Egypt is very different to that of Cambodia Lucie had a lot of fun with the FACE medical supervisor. They worked together for two weeks creating an invaluable hygiene information curriculum and informative picture cards under the form ‘photo essays’.
Microbes, germs and the benefits of clean hands have been easy discussions. The fun really began when Lucie had to discuss genital hygiene. Creating descriptive visuals for children on this topic created a lot of animated, entertaining discussion. We even had to investigate with staff the Egyptian slang for “penis” and “vagina”. After the initial surprise and shyness the FACE staff ended up laughing hysterically in the minibus on the way back from the FACE center to Cairo downtown giving us names like “boulboul”, “toutou”, “zobr…
As trainers we also learn a lot!
Lucie and her FACE colleagues did a fantastic job with a delicate subject. They worked within groups during youth activities at the FACE drop in center to produce a set of photo essays that will be used to teach street children and their families about microbes, clean sleeping quarters and hand, body and genital hygiene.
When placed in different cultural context our work is always very interesting, fun, challenging and enriching. We’re looking forward to continuing the work with our FACE colleagues and I’m sure they’ll be waiting to see Mr Boulboul and Ms Toutou come back. After the implementation of this program we’re excited and eager to begin the reproductive health curriculum!