Impact of the Girls’ Club Training

Text by Sarah Kunkel, International intern 


The Sagalla Girls Club has been receiving training on menstrual health and life skills from the collaboration of the KUJUWA Initiative of SOKO Community Trust and Save the Elephants. The Girls Club is comprised of young women from Mwakoma, Kirumbi, and Mwambiti and of around 10-20 years old. They get split into two groups- primary and post-primary- based on their age and level of education. The training modules started in March of 2022, and this past January I had the pleasure of helping Project Leader Esther Serem and assistant Grace Wairimu with one of these trainings. The topics for this week’s training were teenage pregnancy, STIs and stigma, drug and substance abuse, and resilience.

An interactive session led by SOKO Community Trust with the girls. Photo by: Sarah Kunkel

I followed Grace up to the Women’s Eco-Enterprise Center (WEC) feeling both nervous and excited. Would the girls like me? What if I can’t communicate with them well? Will they judge me for being this sweaty? What if they don’t like me? I hope I can play some games with them! Why can’t I stop sweating?

My curiosity was met with their own to match. Wide eyes and whispers filled up the hall in the centre. I met the trainers while they were getting ready to start the lesson for the day. I was with the primary group, and after I smiled and waved, a few of the braver younger girls sat near me. “Jambo!” I said with a wave and got smiles and giggles in return. Easy crowd.

One of the little girls shies away as soon as the camera is pointed in her direction. Photo by: Sarah Kunkel 

Even though the trainings are given in Swahili, I was able to follow along with the basic topics. The older and younger girls were being taught about resilience, and many were eager to contribute their answers for being strong in the face of various conflicts. They broke up into groups to discuss answers to problem scenarios.

During a mandazi and juice break, I became the most popular person in Sagalla. A few of the younger girls brought out a ball and started forming a circle. One little girl grabbed my hand and invited me to play. I set my camera down and hoped whatever buried high school athletic skills I had would magically resurface. I wasn’t sure what game was about to start, but realized quickly that it was keep away, or “Pickle in a Dish.” Even though I grew up on the other side of the world, I had played the same exact game at this age.

I had just met these girls and was already included in their fun and games. Their immediate openness and kindness towards me did not go unnoticed. Once I was hitting the early stages of heat exhaustion, I stepped away from the game and a group of older girls waved me over. One girl knew English very well and translated for the rest of her friends, and in turn, translated their questions for me. The questions I received from the younger and older girls had a stark contrast. What was once “what juice do you like?” was now “why don’t you have any children?”

I was a different-looking example of what they have been learning about with these trainings; I was an example from outside of their small community that it was okay to not have children early and to continue your education after secondary school.

A representative from SOKO Community Trust leading the session. Photo by: Sarah Kunkel

The rest of the week I resumed taking photos, having my hair styled and played with, helping put together lunch dishes, listening to the trainings, and playing games with the girls on their breaks. The girls of both age groups got more comfortable with me hanging around, and it was great to see them really engaging in this week-long training. At the end of the week, the girls received women’s hygiene products, and some of the younger ones received toothpaste and toothbrushes. Even when having some conversations about mental health with the older girls, I could notice just how much they learned from the Girls Club. One of the girls was highlighting the importance of having a strong support group to lean on during difficult times. I smiled to myself because that was something I had learned and focused on with my personal experiences in therapy, and now they too will have that in their toolbox when dealing with hard times.

I said goodbye to the older girls that were leaving and started doing some dishes while the younger girls were still playing. As I was about a quarter of the way through cleaning, I noticed a shadow blocking the doorway. I looked up and saw the group of girls that were playing all standing and watching me. They asked if they could help me with the dishes so that I could finish and play with them sooner. I said yes, and all of them rushed over to help me. After the dishes were sparkling clean and our fingers pruned, we played the last few rounds of keep away. The girls all gave me a giant group hug and we said our “kwaheri’s” to each other.

The girls and I posing for a memorable photo. Photo by: Grace Wairimu 


Even though they learned about different serious topics this week, one theme persisted throughout- and that was laughter. Laughter does not need to be translated from Swahili to English. And neither does kindness. These girls might have different issues going on in their home life, but every day they came with eager and open minds. They were always ready to learn about ways to improve themselves and their futures. Before they even knew anything about me, I was invited to join them in having fun. I have been fortunate enough to be born in the right place and right time, and have been able to attain a quality education throughout my life. Most of these girls will never see the privileges that I have been able to see, and I will never have to worry about an elephant ruining my family’s yearly income or being able to afford a new school uniform. There are so many differences between my past and theirs, but all of our different journeys brought us together. And in that togetherness, we were able to connect through fun, happiness, and humour.
Supporting this club and helping create a fun learning environment is something that I will always do- even after my internship ends.
The views, opinions and positions expressed in this article belong solely to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Save the Elephants

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