Dear Friends of Lily,
A number of our supporters have reached out and asked how Lily is doing as Nicaragua’s civil unrest moves into a fourth month. I think many are surprised when I answer: The Lily Project's good work continues.
I've wondered...why is Lily able to move forward while some others are not? And always two words come to mind that perfectly describe our team's thinking during this time – Creative Resilience. Out of curiosity I googled the term and found it actually is “a thing” and considered essential for success during times of crisis. Good to know! Here’s what you can expect from Lily:
Understand and adjust to our new reality. When roadblocks make it impossible to travel to rural communities, we shift to work or training that can be done safely in the city or online. Across Nicaragua, NGOs were told by the government to halt work. When the edict came down Anielka worked with the Ministry of Health to solicit and receive approval from the government to continue our operations – a true endorsement of the work we are doing. We are finding that challenges like these can be worked through and at times create new opportunities.
Stay focused on our mission. Lily’s leaders are young women determined to create better lives for women and girls in their country. They give and get joy through their work: teaching adolescent girls to respect and protect their bodies; screening women for cervical cancer; and helping women who have experienced sexual trauma. A day with Lily becomes an oasis amidst the stress of uncertainty and violence. Check out our Facebook page and you will see this in action!
Make progress. We are in the process of redefining our goals for the year. While the number of cancer screenings is likely to be lower, the number of girls receiving sexual health education will be higher than planned. Our strategic development continues - we are on the final stage of beta-testing our data platform to facilitate offline/online patient data collection, management and analysis and in the early stage of a joint research effort with Dr. Kammi Schmeer and her team at The Ohio State University. We are here for the long haul and with your support we can continue to bring health and hope to thousands of women and girls we serve in Nicaragua.
Just imagine the fear of a young girl when she gets her period and has no idea of what is happening to her body and no one to tell her the truth. As UNESCO recently reported, this is the case for nearly 2 out of 3 girls in countries like Nicaragua. Our data goes further and shows that many mothers do not understand the relationship between their cycle and fertility - and think their menstrual bleeding is a disease.
We believe to reduce Nicaragua's high rates of teenage pregnancy and cervical cancer, The Lily Project must make it possible for girls to understand, respect and protect their own bodies.
Thanks to the Friends of Lily, we have launched Lily's Girl Power education program - initially focusing on sexual and reproductive health. Joining Lily's mobile health teams are interns dedicated to outreach and education of girls and young women. The curriculum incorporates simple tools such as a cycle tracking bracelet (worn by the sisters above) and body apron to create an interactive and fun learning process. We will be testing and refining the curriculum over the next few months, measuring our impact on girls' understanding, attitudes and behaviors.
But we can't do it alone! Joining us is an alliance of high school and college-aged girls who want to help create better futures for girls in Nicaragua. Interested in learning more? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lizzie Knothe
For the last few months, I have been working with Lily, specifically on a special project called “Pulseras de Poder” or “Power Bracelets” These bracelets help explain the menstrual cycle. The bracelets are straightforward and simple: 28 beads for the 28 days of the cycle, 3 different colors to determine neutral time, ovulation, and menstruation, along with a moveable charm to allow for counting the beads to keep track of the days. No need to read nor write, only to remember to move the little charm each day.
Working with women and girls on this project has been a huge learning experience. Almost everyone I speak with is familiar with the concept of what is known here as “la regla” or the menstrual period, yet not everyone is comfortable talking about it. Statistics show that nearly 90% of women here in Nicaragua lack menstrual education, or view their period as a disease. 1 in 4 girls in Nicaragua will become a teen mom, yielding one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. Lily is set out to change this. I have the privilege of teaching women about their bodies, and sharing Lily’s mission that everyone has a RIGHT to a healthy life, and that healthy life happens with empowerment through education.
I always like to make a few things clear when talking about the menstrual cycle. These would be the things I would like to leave as a message to the women and girls of Nicaragua:
1. Periods are normal. They are a sign that your body is healthy.
2. Periods are POWERFUL. With periods come responsibility. It is our responsibility as women to take good care of ourselves, be prepared, and be safe.
3. Simply because a girl has received her period does not make her an adult. Yes, periods can be viewed as a rite of passage from girl to woman, but many outside factors are involved in becoming an adult, such as emotional maturity, financial independence etc.
4. Women are in charge of their own bodies and decisions. The choice to have unprotected sex resulting in a pregnancy is a choice, but it requires 2 people and therefore should result in shared responsibility.
5. Motherhood is a beautiful, powerful thing. However, motherhood is not the sole purpose of women, and being a mother is not the only thing that defines a woman. Waiting to be a mother until she is ready, or deciding motherhood is not for her does not mean she has any less value as a human being.
Women and girls, every day that I speak with you, I am in awe of your strength.I empathize with many of the difficulties that come with being a woman, particularly a woman living in a culture dominated by machismo values, however, there are some things I could never empathize with. To those things I say: remember you are strong, you are worthy, you are brave. You can do hard things, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. The Lily Project cares about you, and lastly, you are enough.