Train the Trainer Program

Genevieve Westrope, The Unmentionables' Education Coordinator in Greece

Monday marked the very first sexual and reproductive health class at The Unmentionables Resource Center in Athens. Monday, one of our five female trainers began teaching members of the refugee community in the city. Monday was an exciting day.

Seven weeks ago, just after we opened the Center, seven migrant women signed up for our Train the Trainer program. This program had been piloted, in part, at our sites in Africa. Up until this year, we had trained female migrants in Kenya and Uganda to teach their communities about menstrual health management. Once we knew we were opening a physical space in Greece, we expanded the program and developed a curriculum that would cover six SRHR-related topics.

So starting the program in Athens was entirely new to us. With the help of our partners in the city, we recruited seven women who showed up at our Center one morning to begin training. The women, who range in age, ethnicity and mother tongue, committed to an intense, six-week program that would take them through sometimes-sensitive topics such as contraceptives and sexual and gender-based violence. I would be their teacher, supported by a Farsi translator, and would guide them through each theme.  

I cannot express what a privilege it has been to teach these women. They are brave, they are opinionated, and their compassion reaches a depth I could not have imagined. Sometimes, when I feared no one would show up for class because it had already been a long week, the women showed up early. They would take notes so vigorously throughout class their tea would go cold. And in preparing for the final exam, they re-played the hours-long seminars they recorded until they knew the material as best they could. I saw in them a burning curiosity and a desire to be something; to be a teacher, a voice for their community and a provider for their families. They are now all those things.

One of the greatest downfalls of the aid community is that we are often so eager to help, we forget we are dealing with people who, under any other circumstance, are entirely capable. War and conflict, natural disasters, political, religious or sexual persecution have forced brilliant, passionate and ambitious people onto new shores. With the very best intentions, we sometimes hand-hold, coddle and try to save. With the Train the Trainer model, and The Unmentionables’ philosophy around empowerment and livelihood programming, however, we aim to do the exact opposite. Our female trainers are far more than capable and, as official SRHR teachers, they’ll prove Megan Markle, who spoke last week ahead of International Women’s Day, right.

They, like all women, have always had a voice; they just needed to know they could use it.

Bianca Settino