The following days went as they came. They had sexual and reproductive health sessions. Whenever she remembers them she always smiled.
That day, she got in the conference room and what caught her eye were the mirrors she saw placed on the table. She counted them, twenty five. ‘Maybe they just decided they should give us mirrors as part of the ‘goodie’ bag which they were given on the last day of camp. It usually contained personal amenities such as sanitary towels, toothpaste, and underwear. She sat down and waited for the rest of the group to arrive. The facilitator came in and started talking about self-image. ‘oh, that’s why she gave us the mirrors, to look at ourselves.’ she thought. The concept of self-image was not yet clear in her mind. It was self, that is; her and image, the reflection she saw on the mirror when she stood in front of it. The facilitator explained that self-image was the idea that one has about their abilities, appearance and personality. That had nothing to do with the mirror. She kept it aside and decided that when the time would come, she would eventually find out what it was meant for.
They were taught about self-esteem. They also practiced how to say an affirmative NO which she thought was an easy thing until her turn came to say it. Normally when she talked to boys who were trying to woo her, she would smile and look down on the floor and say a sheepish no. She still remembers how she would ‘draw’ maps with her feet when a boy was talking to her and how she couldn’t gain the courage to look at the boy in the face. Her heart would always thud when she was approached and sometimes her feet would be pricked by thorns as she was trying to find an escape route in the bushes just to avoid crossing paths with the boys. Such efforts would eventually prove futile since they would always come to her and even laugh at her for trying to evade them.
The facilitator made them repeat the NO’s until she was satisfied that the NO was ‘genuine’ and strong enough. Thinking back to this time, she still recalls how that session has helped her in the outside world where most men believe they could have her without too much hesitation from her part. Afterwards, they were given a special assignment. There would be no evening session, they were told. The homework would cover the time meant for that session. They were supposed to take the mirror and go to their rooms and look at their vaginas. This assignment would aid in the following day’s session on sexual and reproductive health.
They all squirmed. How were they supposed to do that? It was embarrassing. She had never known how her vagina looked like. She only knew it was there. It was impossible. A taboo. She swore she wouldn’t look at ‘IT’. The thought of even speaking the word out loud was a sin. Her knowledge in biology would help her answer the questions the following morning. Besides, the facilitator wouldn’t be there to confirm if they did it. Little did she know that they would all get caught the following morning for ignoring the exercise.
Article by Esther Wambui
Mentoring and Empowerment Camps Alumni
Group of 2015