by Michelle Rankin
Females in Balibo face a disproportionate number of challenges and inequities in daily life. The Balibo 5 Community Learning Centre (CLC) devises strategies and programs that focus on marginalised sectors of the community, with a specific focus on the female demographic.
Days for Girls Keilor Gateway Cluster, Balibo Community Health Clinic, Rotary Club of Keilor East and the Balibo 5 Community Learning Centre (CLC) are working collaboratively to empower women and girls by implementing the Days for Girls (DfG) Program. All parties endorsed an MoU with the purpose to cultivate locally driven health leadership and entrepreneurship.
This global program was founded in 2008 and aims to increase girls access to menstrual care. It does this by distributing affordable, environmentally friendly, and sustainable products to secondary school girls. Often girls in Balibo miss school during their monthly period. The school distribution also delivers educational information to help girls understand health and hygiene management.
Currently in Timor- Leste, the Days for Girls program does not have a central point of coordination. There are only two people delivering the DfG program and both are located 4 hours from Balibo. CLC staff members Rofina Aifunan and Sidonia da Silva Tilman and Palms volunteer Michele Rankin succeeded securing the first community based Ambassador training. Balibo will help centralise the DfG program, thus ensuring equitability, empowerment, and independence for women and girls in Timor.
“It was important to pick the right people for this training. We wanted to have strong female role models. We also had to think about location and commitment to the program. I was very happy because all 12 women invited to the training attended. We had doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, a police officer and a dental assistant all graduating as Ambassadors.”Rofina
The DfG program will roll out to all secondary schools in the area. Equitable and effectual education and distribution are vital to the success of the program. In addition to the education and distribution of kits DfG has an Entrepreneur program that helps local women establish a social enterprise that will produce DfG kits as a long term sustainability measure. Days for Girls Keilor Gateway Cluster encouraged CLC to apply for a DfG grant as the Centre is in the process of establishing a women’s sewing group.
So the team at CLC applied for the DfG grant to create for a Female Advocacy Hub. The Hub will not only be a DfG distribution centre but will house the women’s sewing group and foster empowerment and gender equity by delivering a variety of training and workshops in all aspects of female work, education and self-improvement. It is hoped this will empower the women in Balibo by improving their wellbeing, their means of income, their self-sufficiency, their confidence and their security.
With the commencement of the 2020 school year, Ambassadors have been busily delivering DfG kits and health education component. To date close to 1,000 kits have been delivered.
“When I arrived back in Balibo I was impressed and delighted that Rofina and Sidonia had organised the delivery of the DfG program to schools in the sub-district. They are both so passionate about the empowerment of females in Balibo and are great role models. Once they are mentored through the reporting requirements I have the utmost confidence that they will manage the program independently and very quickly ensuring the sustainability of this program.”Michele Rankin
The opening of the Advocacy Hub is scheduled for early May.