Throughout the world girls will go through some form of initiation but the nature of it varies from country to country and tribe to tribe. The South Luangwa area is mostly inhabited by the Kunda tribe who may hold ceremonies depending on their finances. However these practices are slowly starting to die out a little.
When a girl starts her first period she will go to an aunt, grandmother or just an older woman, but never to her mother. This 'aunt' will take two white plates, one upside down upon the other, to the girls' parents. Her mother will put a little money between the plates so it is hidden and the 'aunt' will then procure certain herbs. These are ground up with water and salt and the resulting paste is spread on the girl's body later that evening. Throughout the day the girl will not be permitted to eat salt but, as soon as she has washed off the paste the following day, her diet may return to normal. More herbs are hidden and will remain so until the girl's second period.
During her first period she is instructed how to care for herself during menstruation, that her underwear may no longer be put out in public to dry and that no-one must see her menstrual cloths and that if they do she will never have another period, meaning that she will become barren. She is also told that during her first cycle she may greet no-one.
If the family has the funds an initiation ceremony will take place which teaches the girl to care for herself, how to respect her elders, to dress and act respectably and so on. It is conducted by a matron or apongu (sp) with the help of village women. The girl will also be taught many other things she will need to know in her marriage, for example how to please a her partner. Much of what happens is explicit but Kunda tradition dictates that this should be secret and we respect this wish. Sometimes, if the family is poor or if the girl is not already engaged to be married, this ceremony may be split into two; the first taking place just after puberty and the second just before marriage.
Traditionally the Kunda do not practice genital mutilation involving cutting. However girls are shown how to stretch the labia minora by frequent pulling. Sometimes, if a girl has not 'stretched' sufficiently clothes pegs may be attached.
Who goes to school?
A family with little resources will send a son, rather than a daughter, to school as traditionally the education of girls is thought of as less important. Families, teachers and schools often do not expect a girl to perform as well, academically, as a boy and this can lead to a girl developing low expectations of herself and low self esteem.
Whilst most kids help out at home, girls are usually given far more home chores than boys. This often means that before and after school girls may have to fetch water from the borehole (this may take several trips), sweep the area outside the house, do the washing up and care for younger siblings. At weekends she may have to do the family washing. An average rural school girl’s day starts at 5:00 and she is in school by 7:00 but, by the time she has returned home and completed the evening chores, it may be too dark for homework and not all families can afford candles.
|Menstrual Hygiene Management|