The guide consists of the following sections:
- What is #NoMissedSchoolDays?
- #NoMissedSchoolDays activity and camp packages
- Before you start leading the activities
- The leading of #NoMissedSchoolDays activities
- Relaxation and respiration rehearsal on support of the making of the activities
- #NoMissedSchoolDays (#NMSD) vocabulary
- The prodect group’s reading tips on period, puberty and gender sensitivity issues
#NoMissedSchoolDays is a development coordination project between Finland’s scouts and Uganda Girl Guides Association and Uganda Scouts Association. The project started in the beginning of 2019 and ends in the end of 2022. It aims at reducing girls dropping out of school because of periods in Uganda by concrete actions and raising awareness. According to UNESCO’s estimation, every tenth girl living in the south of Sahara has to stay home from school during periods. Consequently the girl misses as much as 20% of the school days in a year. By reducing girls’ absences and interruption from school, equal participation in the society is made possible for girls. In this way, gender equality and good education is promoted. These goals are essentially linked with the UN sustainable development goals.
In Finland the project aims at dismantling the taboos and stereotypes and normalizing the discussion related to periods. In addition, its aim is to make menstrual hygiene a natural part at, for example, camp conditions. The activities also make Uganda and the effect of the period there more familiar. The project activities combine menstrual health, influencing society and global education.These are important topics for everybody regardless of which gender you are born to.
As part of the #NMSD project, there are activity packages that are carried out for adventurers and trackers and also a camp package which is meant for explorers and rovers. It is possible to do the activities in Finland from autumn 2020. As a memory for completing the activity, the group can order #NoMissedSchoolDays activity badges. After the project has finished, the intention is to add these activities as a permanent part in the scout program of adventurers and trackers.
The aim of the activity and the project is to handle reliably and based on real information on menstrual health, puberty and related equality questions in Finland and in Uganda.
When planning the activities, the development of the children and youth and also the need for information in relation to the depth of the topic handled, has been taken into consideration. Adventurers get to know the topic on a more general level, whereas the trackers reflect the topics a bit more. According to Väestöliitto, safety issues such as the changes of puberty and self-appreciation are important learnings for school aged children like adventurers for example. Tracker-aged is already pubercent and needs right information during this confusing time. They also need upbringing in values and information against the myths and pressure created by the media and friends. We recommend the #NMSD activities to be led by the adult support so that all the trackers of the group are able to participate. If adult support is missing or if she/he needs support in leading the activities, we encourage them to turn to the adult leaders for help in activities or leading them. There is ability in every local group for sure. Even if the adventurers and trackers are the main target group of the activities, the #NMSD camp package contains many activities also for explorer and rover scouts. More information about the development of the children and the youth, gender sensitivity and menstrual hygiene has been collected to the end of this leader’s guide.
1. The rules of the game. On the first time the group gets to carefully know the rules of the #NMSD game rules. First the groups reads the headlines and discusses about what they mean in the context of #NMSD activities. For example, what it means to respect one another and trust. The rules are explained under the headlines for the leader’s help and after the participants’ reflection they can be read out loud for everybody. The group can print or write the rules on the wall of the meeting place if they want to. That way it is easy to get back to them always before, and if necessary, in progress of the #NMSD activity.
The rules of the #NoMissedSchoolDays game:
- There is trust and respect of one another
Everyone has to be able to participate without feeling uncomfortable. The topic may make someone laugh but laughing at someone else is not right. I have the right to tell about my own things, thoughts and experiences but not others.
- May ask and may wonder
There are no stupid questions or wrong opinions. All the questions do not have right or wrong answers and all the experiences are their own (kokijansa omia). It is good to remember that someone else might think just the same question as you are.
- May feel and may react
As natural as the topic is, it feels different to all of us and we react differently to it. Do not be afraid of the different emotions. The feeling itself does not hurt, but unloading the emotion should not be subjected to, threaten or hurt anyone. When one person might be embarrassed, another may laugh and third can be serious and thoughtful. The more familiar the topic becomes, the more relaxed the feeling around it becomes as well.
- May learn and may have fun
Knowledge is the best medicine against fear and shame. Learning new doesn’t need to be boring. Together new and weird things can also be laughed at. Let’s together break myths and taboos, silence and wrong information around important issues.
2. Getting ready. The group starts the activity with an active game. So the most overwhelming energy will be used and the new and maybe a little bit exciting topic is more easy to tackle. The activities suggest tag game or other ice breaking rehearsal but the group can nevertheless start the meeting with an already well-known and most liked active game. Look at the material bank and active games.
3. Safety. Before each activity and especially before the discussion it is important to pay attention to the atmosphere and safety of the space. The rules help create limits for safe activity and that is why it is important to remind the rules of the #NMSD game for everyone in the beginning. A safe atmosphere is warm, approbative, easygoing and comfortable. Some of the activities may be better to do by the fire or hot chocolate cup rather than at the normal meeting place. So the discussions are more relaxed when you yourself are relaxed.
4. Sensitivity and individuality. The materials aim at staying at a very objective level and the child or youth does not have to answer any personal or hard questions if she/he doesn’t want to. They should neither be pushed to tell any story or answer if they don’t want to. When discussing it is important to keep in mind that some of the children and the youth are not used to talking about periods out loud and this may be the first time talking or hearing of them. The attitudes and opinions of the leader are easily transmitted to the children and the youth and therefore the leaders are in a very responsible position in breaking the speechlessness myths over the topic. The leader has to actively pay attention to their appearance and selection of words when leading the activities. Free movement in the space and the ability to leave the room has to be permitted without raising any questions. A tip! Small and easy activities like for example drawing can make the situation more comfortable for the children and the youth.
5. Objectivity (Tasapuolisuus). Everyone must have a right to equal participation in discussions and a possibility to pose questions. Especially when the group sizes are big there is a risk that the more shy and quiet people don’t get a chance to participate enough in the discussion. The topics may be handled in smaller groups or in pairs especially if there are several scout leaders participating and available. In dividing the smaller groups it is important that the leader is on track about what is discussed and making sure that the children and the youth won’t be left alone with a topic too hard to handle. The questions may as well be collected, for example into a box.
6. Going through the activity (Purku). There are example questions and answers collected with the activities for the leader to help guide the conversation. It is important to leave enough time at the end of each discussion for going through the experiences and reflection. Give everyone a chance and room to express their thoughts and feelings about the topic. What did I learn, what did I feel and why? By reflecting, the participant becomes more aware of the things they learnt. In common conversation the thoughts have a chance to become refined further. Of course it is not necessary to talk if the topic feels intimidating for somebody but it is good to encourage conversation. Adventurers and trackers are to be reminded that you can always ask the leader about the topic just between the two of you. If there is a situation where the leader doesn’t know the answer to some of the participants’ questions, promise to be back about the answer. It is only human that no leader or adult knows the answer to every question. It shows that all of us are able to learn something new every day.
If it is hard to start a conversation on the feelings and thoughts of the activities, the leader can ask the participants to perform a statue that expresses the feeling of the moment. Also a simple thumb vote of your own feeling can help the beginning of the reflection. Whether the atmosphere is still anxious after the final discussion in any of the participants it is good to do a couple of relaxation and respiratory activities or exercises together.
Here are a couple of relaxation and respiratory activities to calm everyone’s state of mind:
Shaking your body
The group shakes away your body from all the stress and anxiety of the day. The members of the team imagine in their minds how dogs shake themselves dry after they have taken a swim and shake themselves from head to toes. You can start the shaking from the tip of your head and proceed downwards into your face, shoulders, hands, your waist, booty, both legs, thighs, knees and feet. You can repeat this a couple of times, first trying a little bit how it works out and the second time as relaxed and big as possible.
Everyone thinks over a compliment in their mind that you would like to say to your best friend. When you have come across a compliment, everyone closes their eyes and repeats it to themselves while smoothing themselves and softly tapping their whole body from head to toes. An example of a compliment may be for example ‘everything is fine’, ‘ you’re valuable’, ‘you’re brave’ or ‘you’re good’.
In this rehearsal everyone sits down or lays down on the floor just in a position that feels good at that moment. You can close your eyes. The leader asks the participants to focus in their minds to those parts of their body that he/she next names. The leader starts going through different parts of the body in a calm voice from toes up to the tip of your head. ‘Try to be as relaxed and heavy on the ground that you're up to. Think first about your toes and feel how they feel right now..move from your toes to the back of your feet.. let them feel heavy.. ankles, as heavy.. move from your ankles to your knees and thighs. During the exercise there can be quiet and nice music on the background or it can be done in nature as well. Calm music and different length relaxation exercises are also found from the Mieli ry webpage or Youtube. Before you use ready made material from the internet it’s good to get to know it in advance.
A quick and effective way for relaxing your mind and body are easy respiratory exercises. You can do the exercise anytime if there is some anxiety around. Calmness and relaxation is important in the respiratory exercises because the fast and short breath increase the body stress itself.
- Respiration exercise 1 (easy)
In this easy respiratory exercise everyone empties their lungs by blowing air outside from your mouth calmly. After that everyone takes a deep breath through your nose by counting to four calmly in their mind. Everyone holds their breath while counting to seven in their minds. After that you let the air flow out of your mind while counting to eight in your mind. You can repeat the exercise.
- Respiration exercise 2 (for more progressed)
In an abdominal respiration exercise you start by taking a good and relaxed position, for example standing hands and feet relaxed on your sides. Everyone places one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Focus your thoughts on the hands resting on your body. The respiration is then through your nose calmly in and out. In and out. The leader recommends everyone to focus their attention on their breath, recommending it to feel good and natural however, not forced the same as the person next to you. We often breathe superficially with just our lungs so next we will pay attention that everyone breathes with their abdominal. During the abdominal respiration the hand on your belly should rise and come down on the rhythm of your breath and the hand on your chest should stay still. Everyone can imagine a balloon in their stomach that fills when breathing through your nose calmly and deflates when breathing out.
Here are some explanations for some terms used in the material:
Global north and south
The global south and north are used to describe the structure of power and the uneven polarization of the resources. The description is not only geographical even if the countries of the global south are mainly situated in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Similarly the global north can be in more low income countries and the global south in the north. As a practical example there is extreme poverty and huge income gaps in the United States as well as high-technology and industry in China.
The previously used term ‘developing country’ is nowadays seen as old-fashioned and also inappropriate because we do not want to prop up a world view where there are so called ‘white saviours’ or ‘rescue people’. We want to be careful with the attitude that we arrive from a rich country as ‘better’ to help someone who is ‘worse’. We live in a mutual world.
Someone who has a womb (Kohdullinen)
We use the explanation of someone who has a womb in some cases, because not everyone having a womb feels themselves as girls or women and because not everyone feeling themselves a girl or a woman have a womb. This is an essential part of gender diversity.
The project material uses a more broad word menstrual health instead of menstrual hygiene.
MHM is an abbreviation of the words Menstrual Hygiene Management which means taking care of the menstrual hygiene. The International Menstrual Health Day (MHDay) is held each year on the 28th of May. The #NMSD project took part in the 2020 MHDay by sharing a long distance activity in social media. By the help and the tips of the activity everyone is able to assemble themselves a menstrual health package which helps scout camping during periods.
PMS is an abbreviation of the words pre menstrual syndrome. It means the psychological and physical symptoms that occur before a period and affect negatively in normal life. The symptoms may be for example grumpiness, sleeping problems, headache, the swelling of the stomach and nausea.
1. Get to know the project. Before starting to lead the activities, the scout leader needs to get to know the project, its goals, the contents of the activities and this leader’s guide. The topic handled, the menstrual hygiene and the perspective on equality is quite recent in the Finnish scout activities. Because of the sensitivity of the topic it is very important to be self well-prepared to lead them for the children and youth.
2. Check your knowledge and skills. No one knows everything in the beginning. The knowledge, attitudes and experiences of the scout leaders in relation to menstrual hygiene vary a lot. You don’t need to know everything but being conscious of your own attitudes and knowledge is important. It is not wrong for the scout leader to learn new with the project – so did the project group as well. If the scout leader feels they need support handling this sensitive topic, they can ask the safety adult of the local group to take part in the conversation. The activities can also be led in cooperation with other leaders of the local group, for example, as part of the local groups excursion or camp.
3. Be prepared. The scout leader gets ready for the activities and themes handled carefully before leading them. Read the activities through, do not just scan the titles. By getting carefully ready, the leader is able to also answer the questions that rise from the topic. The activity packages and the material related to them (such as the board game, memory game, letter to home and so on) is on the project’s website ready to be printed. In the end of the scout leader’s guide there is a list of literature tips and links to be better orientated to the topic. These activities are for adventurers and trackers.
4. Pay attention to domestic people. The topic can arise want to talk more about in the child or youth’s home so before starting the #NMSD activities or as they start the latest, it is good to be in contact with the family of the children in the best way you can. On the project’s website you can find a letter home that can be copy-pasted as a Whatsapp-message to be shared as a picture or printed as a letter to be shared for homes. You can also sent the letter as an attachment with the camp letter, if the #NMSD activities are realized as part of the local group’s camp program.