#NoMissedSchoolDays, a joint project by Ugandan and Finnish scout associations benefits both societies

A year 2019 brought along a development cooperation project between Uganda Girl Guides Association, Uganda Scouts Association and The Guides and Scouts of Finland. A project is looking for solutions to social problems which leads to school dropouts. In that matter, one of the biggest threats in Uganda is deficiencies menstrual health. In order to improve menstrual health, the project supports the dissemination of information to whole Ugandan society. However, there are clear deficiencies also in Finnish society what comes to menstrual health and the development cooperation is a chance to recognize them.

A development cooperation is a topic which raises debate and is full of confrontation. Often heard argument against development cooperation is that ”Money have been spread to development countries for decades and nothing have been changed.” The nature of the change can be debated indefinitely but one misunderstanding in the debate is repeated time after time.

Until recent years development aid was mainly one-way highway. However, that’s not the point anymore. Nowadays, there is an increasing emphasis on cooperation. Instead of allocating money to top-down development projects, the emphasis is at the grassroots level on mutually beneficial project works. The starting point for that kind of project works is that they are dealt mutually at the grassroots level mutual needs in mind. That’s how also #NoMissedSchoolDays got its start.

The initiative for the project came from Ugandan scout organizations. It was based on their finding that deficiencies of menstrual health were threating Ugandan society and it’s developing. Strengthening menstrual health was also a way to foster scouting which is one of the most important reasons for developing program of Finnish Scouts.

In Uganda scouting takes place in connection with schools. Thus, the project has chosen the approach where scout leaders (teachers) are educated by the project after which they educate scouts and they educates other students. Goal of the project is that the knowledge about menstrual health would spread more broadly to communities in this way. This practical footwork is supported by national radio shows, stakeholder meetings etc.

However, the project has visible place among the Finnish scouting as well. The main activity is a scouting badge which includes several activities. Through the badge and its activities information about menstrual health is spread to Finnish youngsters. At the moment, the need for the information is available unequally in Finnish society. The topic seems to be hard for many peoples and families which why scouts is seeking to make it easier through games.

But this isn’t all. Project activities includes blogs, newspaper articles, information strikes, visits to fairs and camps and so on. One of the busiest questions for scouts is that how take care of menstrual health during camps and hikes. The answers to questions like this could be found in project materials.

The Covid-19 virus has made the situation worse. In Uganda as well as in Finland inequality has continued to deepen which have had impacts on schooling and inclusion more broadly. For example, the livelihoods of families in Uganda have suffered a severe blow which have forced children take part in supporting their families. This haven’t led only to school dropouts but also child marriages when families have needed dowries from marriages.

It’s often forgotten that there are possibilities to meet crisis in Finland as well. Families and especially youngsters have different amount of resources which have led to increased mental nausea. One inequality which have got accentuated during the covid-19 is inequal conditions to care of own health. For example, there might be challenges to buy menstrual paddings or otherwise take care of menstrual hygiene. It’s great that the Finnish Scouts have opportunity to tackle these problems through projects like #NoMissedSchoolDays.