Vicky Taylor is a specialist consultant in leadership and people development in the education arena and is currently pioneering the work of a People Directorate for the Oasis family. She is the founder of Free Range Chicks, a women’s ministry that seeks to help women network and be inspired and encouraged to be the women they were created to be. Vicky has taken some time out of her busy schedule to tell Fiona Hinton about a new project she is involved in.
You seem to be involved in more things that I can count – how do you find time for family life?
It’s a juggling act. I’ve been married for 26 years to a wonderful man, Alastair, who is a Pastor at the Elim Church in Cheltenham, so I’m also a Pastor’s wife. I have four lovely children, three boys and a girl. The youngest is now 15. So I’m busy trying to juggle family, work and ministry, just like so many of us!
Tell us a little about Free Range Chicks.
To be honest, it’s quite a quirky outfit. We are an eclectic mix of women who share a passion to make Jesus known to others and encourage each other to become who God created us to be. We’ve seen remarkable answers to prayer and scores of people come to know Christ through friendship, local projects and some fantastic weekend conferences.
We have seen women fully restored to knowing the love of God and walking in His grace. I believe every contact leaves a trace and would love each of us to leave a deposit of love in this world. Free Range Chicks is a group of ordinary women wanting to make a difference.
So what does Free Range Chicks actually do?
We are a nondenominational, charitable, association of women who gather together nationally, at conferences and retreats, in order to take a break from our everyday lives. We meet to refresh ourselves, focus our purpose, set our priorities, network with others, and have fun.
How did you get involved in this project in Malawi?
In November 2013, Mary Shawa, the Permanent Secretary for Gender in Malawi asked my friend, Pastor Abby Olufeyimi, for help getting girls sanitary pads so that they could finish their schooling. That same month, Abby was our main speaker at the Free Range Chick’s National Conference. She told me about this cry for help and I felt stirred to do something to restore dignity for these girls. ‘Dignity’ is the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. It is one of the primary words in the first article of the universal declaration of human rights, so it seemed a fitting name for the project.
It’s not just Malawi, nine million African girls between the ages of 10-18 miss nearly a quarter of their education due to lack of menstruation provision.
In many communities, poor sanitation and a lack of menstruation supplies means that girls don’t have the resources to manage their periods effectively.
And where good health education and awareness is lacking, the event of ‘menstruation’ can become taboo. It results in girls staying at home during their period – with all sorts of consequences for their education, vocation and human rights.
Failing to achieve effective menstruation hygiene management is not just a female issue. It impacts families, communities and nations. As women are often the economic lynchpin of families in developing contexts, enabling better menstruation provision gives whole family units freedom to flourish.
Even UN Secretary United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has made the point that when they are educated, girls and women drive development in their families, communities and nations.
What does Dignity do?
We invited Kunle Onabolu, the founder of African Child Trust, to help us and Ulemu-Dignity was started. Kunle also visited Malawi and discovered GILEP (Girls in Leadership Empowerment Project) an NGO which is undertaking some important and significant work in addressing issues of menstruation management in Malawi. They provide pads and knickers with very few resources but an impressive vision. Their work seeks to build relationships and awareness and create responses that the entire community can own.
Initially we agreed to help by supporting girls at four different schools in Southern Malawi: Nyezerera, Namphungo, Khombwe and Hope Village.
But, we believe every girl and woman should enjoy the freedom to flourish. By supporting and campaigning for health and education initiatives, we want to empower women across Malawi and other African countries to secure better chances in learning, vocation and life. We campaign to bring awareness through the media, create educational materials and initiate ongoing fundraising ideas.
How is it going so far?
One of the solutions to helping girls remain in school is to provide each girl with a Life Pack of washable pads that lasts 3-5 years and costs less than £10. We started fundraising last February and what a difference a year can make.
In October 2014, I visited Malawi with a small team including Pastor Abby with four suitcases full of Life Packs to distribute in the four villages we’d agreed to support.
We went to the villages and gave out packs, but also spent time with GILEP so we could develop an understanding of the work they are doing out there. After seeing the need first hand, it was agreed to set up sewing projects in these four villages and teach the girls to sew their own pads as well as provide health education. Giving the girls a hand up and not a hand-out, empowers them with skills for the rest of their lives and that they can pass on to their children. Currently, funds are being raised to purchase sewing machines, scissors and other materials for these villages.
Is education also necessary?
Yes, absolutely! One of the many difficult aspects of effective menstruation management, is that girls can be pressurised into unwanted sexual activity/favours in order to obtain the menstruation supplies from men in their community.
Through the provision of life-skills training and education, GILEP’s programmes are enabling girls to say ‘no’, understand their options and operate as a role model to friends and younger students. We want to support them with these programmes as well.
In each location there will be a different strategy. Either they will be taught to make the pads or they will be given ‘Days for Girls’ kits or they will be given pads made by widows in Malawi. Partnerships are key to the success of this work and we are very excited to be involved in helping these girls to have a brighter future.
How can our readers get involved?
There’s information on our websites www.freerangechicks.net and www.dignityproject.co.uk We are always looking at ways to fundraise and raise awareness, so we’d love to hear from anyone with ideas or who would like to get involved in raising the need for menstruation provision. And, of course, you can donate just £10 and keep a girl in education for another five years by texting FRCD01 70070. Every little helps. One girl, one life, period.