This post was reposted from the DivaCup.com blog by Sophie Zivku.
On October 11th, organizations from around the world will come together to draw awareness to International Day of the Girl. This day is set aside each October to advocate for the basic needs and rights of girls and to encourage participation in efforts to help girls reach their full potential.
Diva International works with various organizations to help ensure that all girls, no matter where they live, have access to basic rights – food, clean water, shelter, education and hygiene (including access to feminine hygiene protection). Since 2000, one of our partners, Lunapads has been providing girls with sustainable period care through their Pads4Girls program. Period care is a necessity for women and girls, but is often not accessible due to poverty and limited resources.
This past spring, Diva International Inc. partnered with Lunapads in support of their One4Her program in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. We committed to donate an AFRIpads Kit (complete with 2 pads with 5 inserts, plus 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.
Thanks to our Divas, we were able to pledge funds that totaled 443 kits to girls in need!
This summer Lunapads received a request from Maggie Crosby, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, in the School of Public Health, who was working at the Pader Girls’ Academy (PGA) in Uganda. Knowing about Lunapads and their One4Her program, Maggie requested a more comprehensive AFRIpads for the 250 young mothers at PGA that also included underwear (most girls don’t even own a pair) and soap. After reviewing Maggie’s request, Lunapads and Diva International were pleased to use the funds raised from the Menstrual Hygiene Day One4Her campaign to send 250 comprehensive AFRIpad kits to the young women at PGA.
PGA helps child mothers by making it possible for them to bring their child with them to school. This is unique in Uganda, as often child mothers are stigmatized and going back to school is not an option for them. A survey was conducted to see what the girls would need when it comes to self-care and hygiene and most of the girls requested soap, underwear and pads.
Such basic needs.
The young girls who live at PGA have been victims of rape, coercion or abduction (due to Uganda’s 25-year civil war). At PGA they have been given a rare opportunity to continue their studies while raising their babies in a safe place. These are strong young women who have overcome many challenges, and who are learning to advocate for themselves and their families.
The following is a brief recap from Maggie about how your support of the Menstrual Hygiene Day One4Her campaign has helped women at PGA live better, healthier lives.
What do the young mothers currently use to manage their period? How does it affect their schooling when they have their period?
Most girls at PGA use rags or old t-shirts to stuff in their underwear during their period. They do not have any money to afford disposable pads and many cannot even afford underwear. Because of this, if their period soaks through their clothing, they may skip classes to avoid the embarrassment. Each student that I asked about this issue during my time at PGA this summer replied that their lack of hygiene necessities negatively impacts their studies. When asked “what information or resources, relating to sexual and reproductive health, would be most useful to you?” the number one response was “pads”.
The effect of menstruation is so stigmatising on the young mothers. Many of the girls often disassociate themselves from the rest of the students until their period is over, which has a big impact on her performance at the end of the term.
How will life improve for them to have the kits?
Owning reusable pads, underwear and soap will have a positive impact on the lives of PGA students. These young women have been robbed of their innocence and their agency – poverty happens to them, sex happens to them, pregnancy happens to them. Possessing the necessary resources for dealing with their periods will provide them with a measure of control over at least one aspect of their life.
Having the kits will also save the girls from a number of negative outcomes of menstruation (a) worries during periods, (b) use of unclean clothes during periods, (c) further infections during periods as a result of using dirty clothes. This will lead to improved performance of the students at school as such better ground for sustainability of the school.
What are their hopes and dreams in going to school?
Students in the vocational training program hope to become seamstresses, to work in hotels or restaurants, or to start their own bakeries or catering businesses. Secondary school students mostly aim to continue their studies in nursing or teaching. They want to be nurses to provide adequate support and care to young mothers and they want to be teachers they can encourage girls to enrol and complete both primary and secondary education. One student told me that she hopes one day to be a member of parliament.
While we still have many girls who are blocked from attaining their educational career due to re-current pregnancies, most girls who have attained admissions at schools demonstrate commitment in their studies.